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Be ye therefore imitators of God, as children beloved. These words are closely connected with the preceding. In Ephesians 4:32 he had urged the example of God in one very momentous matter; he now urges it in a more general sense and on another ground. We ought to forgive men because God has forgiven us—all admit that; but moreover, we ought to imitate our Father in his forgiveness and in his loving spirit, be-because beloved children should always imitate, and will always strive to imitate, what is good in a beloved father. Forgiving love is one of the great glories of our Father; it has been made peculiarly attractive in our eyes, because it has been exercised by him towards us; every consideration, therefore, ought to induce us to show the same spirit.
And walk in love. Taking up anew the exhortation of Ephesians 4:1. Let your ordinary life be spent in an atmosphere of love. Drink it in from heaven, as plants drink in the sunshine; radiate it forth from eyes and face; let hands and feet be active in the service; let looks, words, and acts all be steeped in it. Even as Christ also loved us. The passing from the Father to the Son as our Example is not a new departure; for the Son reveals the Father, the Son's love is the counterpart of the Father's, made visible to us in the way most fitted to impress us. Though Christ's love, like his Father's, is eternal, the aorist is used, to denote that specific act of love which is immediately in view. And gave himself for us. The Pauline phrase (Galatians 1:4; Galatians 2:20; Titus 2:14; 1 Timothy 2:6), simple, but very comprehensive: "himself"—all that he was as God, all that he became as Man, a complete self-surrender, a whole burnt offering. "For us," not merely on our behalf, but in our room (after verbs of giving, dying, etc.); this, indeed, being implied in the idea immediately following of a sacrifice, which, alike to the Jewish and pagan mind, conveyed the idea of a life given in room of another. An offering and a sacrifice to God. Offering and sacrifice are nearly synonymous, but the first probably includes the whole earthly career of Christ incarnate—his holy life, blessed example, gracious teaching, loving companionship, as well as his atoning death, which last is more precisely the θυσία, sacrifice. The offering and sacrifice were presented to God, to satisfy his justice, fulfill the demands of his law, and glorify his holy and righteous government. For a sweet-smelling savor. Allusion to Noah's sacrifice of every clean beast and of every fowl—" the Lord smelled a sweet savor;" that is, the whole transaction, not the offering merely, but the spirit in which it was offered likewise, was grateful to God. The whole work of Christ, and the beautiful spirit in which he offered himself, were grateful to the Father, and procure saving blessings for all who by faith make the offering their own.
THE WALK SUITABLE TO THE CHILDREN OF LIGHT.
But. Another of the remarkable contrasts of this Epistle; the fumes of lust are doubly odious in contact with the sweet savor of Christ's offering. Fornication and all impurity, or covetousness. The combination of covetousness with sins of the flesh, occurring several times in the apostle's writings (1 Corinthians 5:11; Ephesians 5:3; Colossians 3:5), is rather unexpected. Πλεονεξία, covetousness, means the desire of having more, which is peculiarly true of sensual sins; but it is not coupled with them by a καὶ, but disjoined by an ἢ, indicating something of another class. In the mind of the apostle, sensuality was inseparable from greed, unnatural craving for more, dissatisfaction with what was enough; hence the neighborhood of the two vices. Let it not be even named among you, as becometh saints. The practice of such sins was out of the question; but even speaking of them, as matters of ordinary conversation, was unsuitable for saints; the very conversation of Christians must be pure. The exhortation bears on Christians in their social relations; had the apostle been treating of the duty of the individual, he would have urged that such sins should never be admitted even to the thoughts or the imagination.
And filthiness; αἰσχρότης, implying that such things are disgraceful, ugly, revolting, the opposite of καλός, fair, comely, attractive. And foolish talking or jesting, which are not becoming. This would be well understood in sensual, frivolous Ephesus; a light, bantering, jesting kind of talk, seasoned with double entendres and obscene allusions, very pernicious in its moral effect. There is no reason to suppose that the apostle meant to condemn all play of humor, which is a Divine gift, and which in moderation has its own useful place as a means of refreshing and invigorating the spirit; it was the jesting associated with ribaldry that drew his reproof. But rather giving of thanks. Εὐχαριστία is somewhat similar in sound to εὐτραπελία, jesting: the reason for putting the one in opposition to the other is not very apparent; the meaning seems to be that, in place of giving vent to lively feelings in frivolous talk and jesting, it is better for Christians to do so by pouring out their hearts in thanksgivings to God for all his goodness.
For this ye know well; an appeal to their own consciences, made confidently, as beyond all doubt. That no fornicator, nor unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, hath any inheritance in the kingdom. Covetousness, the twin-brother sin of uncleanness, is denounced as idolatry. It is worshipping the creature more than the Creator, depending on vast stores of earthly substance in place of the favor and blessing of God. It must receive the doom of the idolater; instead of inheriting the kingdom, he must die the death. The doom in this verse is not future, but present—not shall have, but hath, inheritance, etc. (comp. Ephesians 1:11, Ephesians 1:18). The lust of greed overreaches itself; it loses all that is truly worth having; it may have this and that—lands, houses, and goods—but it has not one scrap in the kingdom. Of Christ and God. The two are united in the closest way, as equals, implying the divinity of Christ and his oneness with the Father in the administration of the kingdom.
Let no man deceive you with empty words. No man, whether pagan or nominal Christian: the pagan defending a life of pleasure as the only thing to be had with even a smack of good in it; the Christian mitigating pleasant sins, saying that the young must have an outlet for their warm feelings, that men in business must put all their soul into it, and that life must be brightened by a little mirth and jollity. As opposed to what the apostle has laid down (Ephesians 5:5), such words are empty, destitute of all solidity or truth. For on account of these things the wrath of God cometh on the children of disobedience. The sophistry is swept away by an awful fact—the wrath cometh, is coming, and will come too in the future life. It comes in the form of natural punishment, Nature avenging her broken laws by deadly diseases; in the form, too, of disappointment, remorse, desolation of soul; and in the form of judgments, like that which befell Sodom and Gomorrah, or the sword which never departed from David's house.
Be not ye therefore partakers with them. If you are partakers of their sins, you must be of their punishments too. Refuse all partnership, therefore. Your natural instincts recoil from partnership in punishment; let your spiritual instincts recoil from partnership in sin.
For ye were once darkness, but are now light in the Lord. Another expressive "but." To make the contrast more emphatic, it is not said, "ye were in darkness, but are now in light;" but, "ye were darkness itself, and are now light itself," and this last is explained by the usual formula, "in the Lord." There was a celebrated Ephesian philosopher, Alexander, who was called "The Light;" but not from that source had the light come. The idea of light-giving is also involved in their being light. "Arise, shine, for thy light is come." Walk as children of light. Another expressive image, denoting close connection with light, as if they were actually born of it; hence their lives should be full of it. The figure connecting darkness with sin and light with purity, common to all languages, underlies the exhortation.
For the fruit of light is [shown] in all goodness and righteousness and truth. The exhortation is confirmed by this statement of what is the natural result of light—goodness, the disposition that leads to good works; righteousness, rectitude, or integrity, which is most careful against all disorder and injustice, and renders to all their due, and especially to God the things that are God's; and truth, meaning a regard for truth in every form and way—believing it, reverencing it, speaking it, acting according to it, hoping and rejoicing in it, being sincere and honest, not false or treacherous.
Proving what is well-pleasing to the Lord. A general rule applicable to the whole walk. To prove is to ascertain by test and experiment. Our whole walk should be directed to finding out what things are pleasing to Christ, rejecting at once everything that is not so, and clinging to all that is. We are not to follow the tradition of our people, and not to take a vague view of duty; we are to prove the matter, to put it to the test. For the supreme practical rule of the Christian's life must be to please Christ.
And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness. The point of this exhortation is in the adjective "unfruitful." The works of darkness are unfruitful; they produce no goodness, give rise to no satisfaction, to no moral results that are "a joy forever;" or, if fruit they have, it is shame, remorse, despair. Contrast this with the renovating, satisfying, joy-producing, fruits of righteousness. But rather even reprove them. Do not be content with a passive attitude towards them, but take the aggressive and expose their wickedness, whether in public or in the domestic circle. A testimony has to be lifted up against ways that are so shameful and that bring down the wrath of God.
For the things that are done by them in secret it is a shame even to speak of. The groves of Ephesus were notorious for the shamefulness of lust. To speak of such deeds was not only wrong, but shameful; so extreme is the delicacy which Christianity fosters. Too much pains cannot be taken, by parents, masters of schools, and others, to foster this delicacy among the young—to exclude from conversation the faintest touch of what is unbecoming.
But all things when they are reproved are made manifest by the light. As, for instance, when our Lord reproved the hypocrisy of the Pharisees—their practices had not seemed to the disciples very evil before, but when Christ threw on them the pure light of truth, they were made manifest in their true character—they appeared and they still appear, odious. A just reproof places evil in a light that shows its true character. For everything which is made manifest is light. Literally, this is a truism; anything shone on is no longer dark, but light. The nearest approach to this, morally, is that light has a transforming power; when the light of the gospel shines on anything dark or evil, it transforms it into what is light or good. This is not uniformly true; all the light of heaven turned on hell would not make it morally light; but it is the general property and tendency of moral light to transform. The exhortation would thus mean—Use your light to reprove what is evil or dark, for not only will the true character of the evil thereby be made apparent, but your light will have a transforming power. But if this were the meaning, we should expect in the end of the verse, not φῶς ἐστι, but φῶς γινεταί, to denote this transformation. The rendering of A.V., giving to φανερούμενον an active meaning ("whatsoever doth make manifest is light"), is rejected by most grammarians, as not being consistent with the usage of the word. The meaning which that rendering gives is this: "Light is the element which makes all clear." We should thus have in the latter clause a proposition, affirming as universal what in the former clause is affirmed of one particular case; "things reproved are made manifest by the light, for it is only light that makes things clear." The exhortation to reprove would thus be confirmed by the consideration that the only way of making immoral things appear in their proper character is to let in on them the light of the gospel. The great practical point is that Christians ought to let in and diffuse the light.
Therefore he saith, Awake thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light. This is evidently intended to give an additional impulse to the Ephesians to walk as children of the light; but a difficulty arises as to the source of the quotation. There is no difficulty with the formula, "he saith," which, like the same expression in Ephesians 4:8, is clearly to be referred to God. But no such words occur in the Old Testament. The passage that comes nearest to them is Isaiah 60:1," Arise, shine; for thy light is come, and the glory of the Lord hath risen upon thee." The simplest and best explanation is, not that the apostle quoted from any lost book, but flint he did not mean to give the words, but only the spirit of the passage. This is evident from his introducing the word "Christ." It must be owned that the apostle makes a very free use of the prophet's words. But the fundamental idea in the prophecy is, that when the Church gets the light of heaven, she is not to lie still, as it' she were asleep or dead, but is to be active, is to make use of the light, is to use it for illuminating the world. The apostle maintains that the Ephesian Church had got the light of heaven; she, therefore, was not to sleep or loiter, but spring forth as if from the grave, and pour light on the world. The changes which the apostle makes on the form of the prophecy are remarkable, and show that it was to its spirit and substance rather than to its precise form and letter that he attached the authority of inspiration.
Take heed then how ye walk strictly. The construction is somewhat peculiar, combining two ideas—see that you walk strictly, but consider well the kind of strictness. Do not walk loosely, without fixed principles of action; but make sure that your rules are of the true kind. Many are strict who are not wisely strict; they have rules, but not good rules. Not as unwise, but as wise. This rendering brings out the force of ἄσοφοι and σοφυὶ: "fools" (A.V.) is rather strong, for it is not utter folly that is reproved, but easy-mindedness, want of earnest consideration in a matter so infinitely vital, so as to know what is truly best.
Redeeming the time, because the days are evil; or, buying up for yourselves the opportunity, the idea being that of a merchant who, knowing the value of an article and the good use to which he can put it, buys it up. The opportunity is the opportunity of spreading the light and acting according to it; and the reason assigned, "because the days are evil," indicates that, owing to the prevalence of evil, there is much need for the light over which the Christian has control. It may be hinted likewise that the prevalence of evil is apt to cool the love and diminish the zeal of the Christian; hence the need for special eagerness of spirit in the matter—he must greedily watch for his opportunity.
Wherefore be ye not unwise, hut understanding what is the will of the Lord. The "wherefore" bears on all the preceding argument: because ye are children of light; because light is so valuable and so indispensable; because your whole circumstances demand so much care and earnestness. "Unwise" is equivalent to senseless; "understanding," to both knowing and laying to heart, as in parable of sower: "When any one heareth the word of the kingdom, and understandeth it not," i.e. does not consider or ponder it, "then cometh the wicked one," etc. The will of the Lord is the great rule of the Christian life; to know and in the deeper sense understand this, is to walk wisely and to walk surely.
And be not intoxicated with wine, wherein is dissoluteness. Drunkenness is suggested because it is a work of darkness; it is the foe to vigilance and earnestness, and it leads all who yield to it to act unwisely. It is the social aspect of drunkenness the apostle has in view—the exhilarating influence of wine in company, giving a rush of high spirits. Ασωτία, from α and σωζω, the opposite of savingness, wastefulness, dissoluteness, or the process of being dissolved, involving perdition. Spoken of the prodigal son, "riotous living;" the habit which sends everything to wreck and ruin. But be filled with the Spirit. Instead of resorting to wine to cheer and animate you, throw your hearts open the Holy Spirit, so that he may come and fill them; seek the joy that the Spirit inspires when he makes you to sit with Christ in heavenly places, so that, instead of pouring out your joyous feelings in bacchanalian songs, you may do so in Christian hymns.
Speaking to one another. Literally, this would denote antiphonal singing, but this is rather an artificial idea for so simple times. It seems here to denote one person singing one hymn, then another another, and so on; and the meetings would seem to have been for social Christian enjoyment rather than for the public worship of God. In the Epistle to the Colossians it is, "Teaching and admonishing one another with psalms," and this has more of the idea of public worship; and if it be proper to express joyful feelings in the comparatively private social gatherings of Christians, it is proper to do the same in united public worship. In psalms and hymns and spiritual songs. The precise meaning of these terms is not easily seen; "psalms" we should naturally apply to the Old Testament psalms, but the want of the article makes the meaning more general, equivalent to "songs with the character of the psalms;" hymns, songs celebrating the praises of the Divine Being, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost; "spiritual songs" or odes of a more general cast, meditative, historical, hortatory, or didactic. But these must be "spiritual," such as the Holy Spirit would lead us to use and would use with us for our good. The two clauses correspond: "be filled with the Spirit;" "speaking in spiritual songs." Receive the Spirit—pour out the Spirit; let your songs be effusions sent forth from your hearts with the aroma of the Holy Spirit. Singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord; i.e. to the Lord Jesus. Some have argued that while ἄδοντες denotes singing, ψάλλοντες means striking the musical instrument. But ψάλλω is so frequently used in a more general sense, that it can hardly be restricted to this meaning here. The great thought is that this musical service must not be musical only, but a service of the heart, in rendering which the heart must be in a state of worship.
Giving thanks always for all things; this being not only a most Christian duty, but an excellent way to keep the heart in good tone, to keep up happy feelings—the duty not being occasional, but "always," and not for things prima facto agreeable only, but "for all things" (see Job 2:10; Romans 8:28). In the Name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God, even the Father. God the Father is the proper Object of thanksgiving, as of prayer generally; but the thanks are to be given in the Name of Christ. That is, through him who has brought in the economy of grace, whereby for wrath we get blessing, for suffering we get reward, for misery glory; whereby, in short, the whole aspect of life is brightened, and even the greatest trials and sorrows turned into real blessings.
Subjecting yourselves one to another in the fear of Christ. The last of the participial exhortations depending on the general exhortation of Ephesians 5:15 to walk strictly, Most commentators connect it with the three immediately preceding participles (speaking, singing, giving thanks), but are unable to find a link of connection. Better connect with Ephesians 5:15. Mutual subjection is part of a wise, circumspect walk, i.e. mutual recognition of each other's rights and of our obligations to serve them. In some sense we are all servants, i.e. we are bound to serve others; the very father is, in this sense, servant of his child. So in the Christian Church we are all in a sense servants ("By love serve one another," Galatians 5:15; comp. Matthew 20:26-40.20.28; John 13:15, John 13:16). This view is in harmony with the humble spirit of the gospel. Pride leads us to demand rigorously from others what we fancy they owe to us; humility, to give to others what Christ teaches that we owe to them. The one feeling is to be discouraged, the other exercised and strengthened. In the verses following we have this precept split up into its constituent filaments. The reading of R.V., "in the fear of Christ," has more authority than A.V., "in the fear of God." It brings to our mind the wonderful example of Christ in this clement of character (comp. Luke 2:51; Hebrews 5:8). Reverential regard for him should inspire us with the same spirit (Philippians 2:5-50.2.8).
Ephesians 6:9.—EXHORTATION TO RELATIVE DUTIES.
Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands, as to the Lord. Though Christianity emancipates and elevates woman, it does not release her from the duty of subjection. The relation to the husband is intensified in order to enforce the duty: "your own husbands," τοῖς ἰδιοῖς ἀνδράσι: as we say, "she deserted her own child." The "as to" denotes a parallel duty: as it is your duty to be subject to Christ, so also to your husbands (see next verse).
For the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ also is the Head of the Church. The woman was made for the man (Genesis 2:18; 1 Timothy 2:13), showing the Divine purpose that the man should be the head and center of the household, and that the position of the wife, as wife, should be one of subordination. Parallel to this arrangement is the relation of Christ to the Church. In words, at least, all admit the headship of Christ, and the subordination of the Church to him. The Christian household, on a much lower level, should exemplify the same relation. Being himself savior of the body. This is not said by way of contrast, but still by way of parallel. The very saviorship of Christ should find an analogy in the Christian husband. The husband should be the ever-vigilant and self-denying protector, guardian, deliverer, of his family, though his saving power can never come near the high level of Christ's A husband reckless of these obligations virtually ceases to have any claim on the subjection of the wife and the family. The very comparison of the husband to the Savior implies that, while there is a certain analogy, there is a still greater contrast. This is implied in the first word of the following verse. Between the lines we read this thought: "Not that the parallel between Christ's saving function and the husband's extends to the highest things."
But [it exists so far as to enforce this exhortation] as the Church is subject to Christ, so let the wives be to their husbands in everything. Let there be a subjection in the one case parallel to that in the other, for such is the Divine will and purpose. Any subjection due to the husband must be modified by what is due to God, for as the husband may not require for himself, so the wife may not give to him, what is God's: God's will is paramount over all. Of the three wills that may be in collision, viz. God's, the husband's, and the wife's—the duty of the wife is to take them in this order, having regard first to God's, next to her husband's, and last to her own.
Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the Church, and gave himself for her. The husband's duty to the wife is enforced by another parallel—it ought to correspond to Christ's love for the Church. This parallel restores the balance; if it should seem hard for the wife to be in subjection, the spirit of love, Christ-like love, on the part of the husband makes the duty easy. Christ did not merely pity the Church, or merely desire her good, but loved her; her image was stamped on his heart and her name graven on his hands; he desired to have her for his companion, longing for a return of her affection, for the establishment of sympathy between her and him. And he gave himself for her (comp. Ephesians 5:2), showing that her happiness and welfare were dearer to him than his own—the true test of deep, real love.
That he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the Word. The immediate object of Christ was to cleanse her, and for this end he used the Word as a purifying agent, washing her by means of it. The difference between selfish and unselfish love is seen here: a selfish lover cares for his wife in his own interest—like Samson, desires to have her simply because she pleases him, and, in his converse with her, thinks, not of her good, but of his own enjoyment; but the love of an unselfish lover constrains him to seek her good, to do nothing that will hurt her and damage her in any manner of way, but to do everything that he believes will advance her well-being, especially in the highest sense. He finds her polluted (comp. Ezekiel 16:1-26.16.63.), and his great instrument of cleansing is "the Word" (comp. John 15:3; John 17:5)—the Word in all its searching, humbling, rebuking, correcting, informing, stimulating, refreshing, consoling power. There is no express allusion to baptism, τῷ λουτρῷ τοῦ ὕδατος is explained by ἐν ῥήματι, "the Word" being the great sanctifying medium, and baptism a figure (1 Peter 3:21).
That he might present to himself the Church glorious. The ultimate end, to which Ephesians 5:26 is introductory. Christ both gives and takes the bride; he presents her to himself—the day of his espousals being in the state of glory (Revelation 21:2), and all the training of this life being designed to fit her for that condition. She becomes glorious at last through assimilation to himself (2 Corinthians 3:18; John 17:22). Not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing. The idea is that of a body perfectly free from blemish, typical of a soul perfectly delivered from sin—of a character perfected in all grace and goodness. But that it should be holy and without blemish. The same truth expressed in positive form, which in the preceding clause is expressed in the negative. Nothing could more clearly denote perfection of character—the full development of the character with whatever of variety may arise from differences in natural gifts and constitution, or convey a more glorious idea of the destiny of redeemed humanity. To be, as it were, the bride of Christ is a high destiny in point of condition; but it would be miserable if character did not tally with condition; this agreement, however, is secured, for the Church is to be holy and without blemish.
Even so ought husbands also to love their own wives as their own bodies. A new illustration is introduced here to throw light on the bearing of the husband to his wife, and the οὕτως seems to refer, not to what goes before, but to what follows (comp. in Ephesians 5:33). He that loveth his own wife loveth himself. His wife is part of himself, so that not to love her as himself is not only a sin against law, but a sin against nature.
For no man ever hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as Christ also the Church. To hate one's wife is as irrational as to hate one's own flesh, and as, on the other hand, men constantly nourish and cherish their flesh, protecting it from hurt, seeking to heal it when hurt, and generally to promote its welfare and comfort, so ought husbands to act towards their wives. In this aspect of the case, too, the sharp eye of the apostle finds an analogy between the relation of the wife to the husband and that of the Church to Christ, expanded in the next verso.
For we are members of his body [being], of his flesh, and of his bones (the last seven words omitted in many manuscripts and in the R.V.). The reference is to the original formation of woman as narrated in Genesis 2:1-1.2.25. Her very name indicated that she was "taken from man." She was taken from him and given to him. So the Church is taken from Christ and given to him. Taken from his body, sprung from his incarnation and his crucifixion and resurrection, the spiritual offspring of his humanity, and then given to him, to be his servant, nay, above a servant, his companion, friend, and confidant for evermore. If it had not been for the body of Christ (Hebrews 10:5) the Church could have had no existence. No bride fit for the King of heaven could have sprung from the earth. As Eve came from the opened side of Adam, so figuratively the Church springs from the pierced side of Jesus.
For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife, and they two shall come to be one flesh. Quoted in substance from Genesis 2:24. It seems to be introduced simply to show the closeness of the relation between man and wife; it is such as in a sense to supersede that between parent and child. The apostle (as appears from the next verse) has in view, at the same time, the parallel truth—the closeness of the relation between Christ and the Church; it too in a sense supersedes the relations of nature (comp. Luke 14:26; Matthew 12:50).
This mystery is a great one; but I am speaking with reference to Christ and the Church. The matter referred to is the typical relation between the marriage of man and wife, and the union of Christ and the Church. It is called a mystery, and it is not said, as is said of another mystery, referred to before (Ephesians 3:5), that it has been completely explained. Some light has been thrown upon it, but that is all. It is implied that there is something of mystery in many of the relations between things natural and things spiritual, but that in the depth and grandeur of the sub-jeer, the mystery connected with the marriage relation is pre-eminent—it is "a great mystery" The analogy of the wind to the Holy Spirit; the springing up of plants to the resurrection; the melancholy sounds of nature to the prevalence of sin; and many other analogies, present vague shadows of truth, the clear, full forms of which we cannot see. When the day breaks and "the shadows flee away," such things will appear in a clearer light.
Nevertheless let each of you severally so love his own wife even as himself. The "nevertheless" refers to the unsolved part of the mystery: whatever may be mysterious, there is no mystery as to this, as to the duty of each husband to love his wife even as himself: that, as already shown, is clear from many considerations. And let the wife see that she fear her husband. Not, of course, with the slavish fear of one terrified and trembling because of a stronger being, but with the holy respect due to one to whom, by the will of God, she stands in a subordinate relation. The relation of Sarah to Abraham may again be referred to as indicating the true ideal of the relation of the wife to the husband.
The walk suitable to the children of light: no fellowship with sins of the flesh.
The fearful prevalence of sensual vice at Ephesus naturally led the apostle to dwell on it emphatically as one of the worst rags of the old man, a rag to be wholly and forever cast away. But, indeed, there are few heathen communities where sensual vice does not flourish when men have it in their power to indulge in it. It is singular how universal sin is in connection with the irregular and disorderly indulgence of the bodily appetites. It would seem as if God made this a special matter of probation, for when these appetites get the upper hand, they lead into terrible excesses, and, by bringing disease on both mind and body, avenge the sin to which they have impelled. First, they tempt men to sin, and then, as if in heartless mockery, they scourge them for having sinned. We find here—
I. SINS OF THE FLESH DENOUNCED, with a corresponding sin of the spirit—covetousness (Ephesians 5:3, Ephesians 5:4).
II. REASONS WHY SUCH SINS SHOULD BE RENOUNCED BY CHRISTIANS.
1. NO such person has any inheritance in the kingdom of God (Ephesians 5:5).
2. The wrath of God cometh—is present and visible—for such things on very evil men (Sodom and Gomorrah, Canaanites, etc.) (Ephesians 5:6).
3. They belong to the world of darkness, and Christians are children of light (Ephesians 5:8).
4. Christians, as living in the Spirit, should bring forth the fruit of the Spirit (Ephesians 5:9).
5. They should ascertain and follow only what is pleasing to Christ (Ephesians 5:10).
III. REASONS WHY SUCH SINS SHOULD BE REPROVED BY CHRISTIANS.
1. They are so evil that it is a sin even to speak of them (Ephesians 5:12).
2. The true character of such sins is seen by light let in on them (Ephesians 5:13).
3. The light has a tendency to transform (Ephesians 5:13), and by letting in the light that shows the odiousness of the sin you may be the means of changing the sinner; while you reprove you may also improve him.
4. It is for this purpose the Church has got the light—when the light is brought to her, her Lord calls on her to awake and shine (Ephesians 5:15). Such precepts and considerations have a wider bearing than Ephesus and its groves. Sins of the flesh flourish even in Christian lands. Young men! lay these things to heart; fear God and keep his commandments, and be not misled by any of the sophistry to which you listen; for they that are Christ's have crucified the flesh, with the affections and lusts.
Walk circumspectly, or strictly.
The apostle goes on to urge a circumspect, wise, and earnest life, closely conformed in all things to the will of God, fashioned according to that idea of wisdom which is set forth in the proverb, "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom." Nothing is of more value than fixed principles for guiding our life. One settled conviction may be of inestimable value; e.g. the conviction that nothing can come to any good in the end which is against the will of God. Whenever greatness is achieved in any sphere of life it is through the force of well-kept rules. Every great author, artist, statesman, has owed his success to certain principles of action to which he has rigidly adhered. It has been remarked that the puritan age was an age of convictions; ours is an age of opinions. But what we need is convictions, and pre-eminently the conviction that the only true, safe, and blessed rule of life is to follow implicitly the will of God. We find here rules for a careful Christian life,
(2) in Christian society.
1. Walk circumspectly, or strictly, not carelessly.
2. Walk wisely, taking pains to ascertain that you so walk as to gain the great end.
3. Redeem the time, or buy back the opportunity (see Exposition).
4. Understand; i.e. lay to heart and follow the will of Christ.
5. Avoid intoxication and all wild excitement and unhallowed pleasure.
6. Be filled with the Spirit, and the holy, blessed emotions which he genders.
II. IN CHRISTIAN SOCIETY.
1. Cultivate Christian song, and make melody in your heart to the Lord.
2. Let thanksgiving have a special place in your exercises.
3. Submit yourselves one to another in the fear of the Lord.
As Christians have not only duties, but also joys, belonging to their individual life, so they have both duties and joys belonging to their social life. What is most characteristic of the social duties of Christians is mutual submission; consideration of one another—of what is due by one to another, and still more of the loving service which one may be able to render to the other. What is most characteristic of their social joys is the element of thankfulness in which they flourish; they should ever live as those, who in Christ have received mercies beyond all calculation; and they should make abundant use of song to give expression to such feelings and to deepen them in so doing. This joyous element goes a long way to give brightness to the social life of Christians; they will not miss the more carnal delights on which worldly men set so much store, but will feel that God puts joy in their hearts, more than in the time that their corn and wine increased.
Duties of wives and husbands.
The Apostle Peter, in his First Epistle, after dwelling on the privileges of believers, strongly urges them to have their conversation honest or fair among the Gentiles, exemplifying, by the purity and beauty of their life, the excellence of the principles and privileges of the gospel; and then he branches out into three cases or relations that afford scope for this mode of life—that of subjects to their rulers, that of servants to their masters, and that of wives to their husbands and husbands to their wives. Though Peter and Paul moved in different orbits, yet, from the strength of the convictions held by them in common, and the guidance of the Holy Spirit in them both, they were led to enforce wonderfully similar applications of the great principles of the gospel. Paul, like Peter, brings forward three relations, the only difference being that, in place of the relation of subjects to their rulers, he has that of children to their parents, and the corresponding duty of parents to their children. We have the clearest proof of its being the purpose of Christianity to purify and elevate the common relations of life. Much of the visible fruit of true religion lies in its making better subjects, better spouses, better children, better servants. Pagans were struck with the excellence of Christian women. The mother of Chrysostom won golden opinions by remaining a widow from her twenty-first year. "What women these Christians have!" was the exclamation of some. Christian women were wonderful missionaries in the early centuries by their devout, pure, and earnest lives; many was the pagan who, "without the Word, was won by the conversation of the wife." Such lives are doubly blessed—blessed in themselves, and blessed in their influence on the world.
I. THE WIFE'S DUTY. Submission to the husband as to the Lord (Ephesians 5:22). Reasons for this.
1. The husband is the head of the wife (Ephesians 5:23).
2. There is a parallel between the husband and Christ (Ephesians 5:23).
3. Even in respect of Christ's saving power, the parallel holds to a limited, though very limited, extent (Ephesians 5:23).
4. The parallel is close enough to require the subjection of the wife (Ephesians 5:24).
II. THE HUSBAND'S DUTY. To love his wife. This is enforced:
1. By the consideration of what Christ felt and did for his Church.
(1) He loved the Church (Ephesians 5:25).
(2) He gave himself for her (Ephesians 5:25). And the object for which he did so.
(a) His immediate object (Ephesians 5:26).
(b) His ultimate object (Ephesians 5:27).
2. By the consideration of the closeness of the relation of the wife to the husband as his own flesh. This relation is considered
(1) naturally (Ephesians 5:28, Ephesians 5:29);
(2) symbolically (Ephesians 5:30).
The Church taken from Christ; given to Christ. The relation of the husband to his wife supersedes (in a manner) the relations of nature. The relation of the Church to Christ does so too (Ephesians 5:31). But the subject is mysterious (Ephesians 5:32). Yet one practical obligation is very clear (Ephesians 5:33).
The constitution of the Church, like that of natural society, involves mutual duties. Nothing can be complete unless each party performs his share. While it is the woman's part to be in subjection, it is the husband's part to love. The one balances the other. It is the duty of the wife to be subject even though the husband does not love, and the duty of the husband to love even though the wife is not subject; but how hard, difficult, almost impossible, such duties thus become! If the husband withhold love, he is wronging his wife, and altogether subverting the relation between them. Let' it ever be observed that, while God has joined husband and wife together, he has joined the husband's love to the wife's subjection; what, therefore, God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.
HOMILIES BY T. CROSKERY
"Followers of God."
This is the high destiny of God's children.
I. THE DUTY HERE COMMANDED. "Be ye imitators of me." It is to do
(1) what God does;
(2) because he does it;
(3) as he does it.
The special point of imitation here is the duty of showing a forgiving spirit to one another.
II. WHY WE SHOULD IMITATE GOD.
1. Because we are his "dear children." Whom should children imitate but their father? Believers have had experience of their Father's wisdom, love, and power, and it is only an instinct of filial love to imitate such a Father.
2. Because we were originally made in his image (Genesis 1:26), and though that image has been marred by sin, it is to be renewed in the process of a Christian experience (Ephesians 4:23).
3. Holiness consists in the imitation of God. "Because it is written, Be ye holy, for I am holy" (1 Peter 1:16).
4. The prospect of perfect likeness to God in the day of our Lord's appearing. (1 John 3:2.)
III. MEANS TOWARDS THE FULFILMENT OF THIS DUTY.
1. Pray without ceasing, especially for fuller measures of his grace, for larger disclosures of his love, for a deeper insight into his truth.
2. Live continually as being under his eye. (Psalms 139:6, Psalms 139:7.)
3. Consider how others have followed him. (1 Corinthians 11:1.)—T.C.
The walk of love.
We are bound to love one another.
I. THIS WAS THE GREAT DUTY OF THE LAW. "All the Law is fulfilled in one word, even in this, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself' (Galatians 5:14). "The end of the commandment is love" (1 Timothy 1:5). All our duty to our neighbor is summed up in love. Love supplies the motive-power to all right relations with our fellow-men.
II. THIS WAS THE NEW COMMANDMENT OF CHRIST, "A new commandment give I unto you, that ye love one another" (John 13:34). The love thus newly enjoined has certain important characteristics.
1. It must be the love of deeds, not words. "Let us not love in word, neither in tongue, but in deed and in truth" (1 John 3:18).
2. It must be ardent. "Above all things have fervent charity among yourselves" (1 Peter 4:7, 1 Peter 4:8).
3. It must be self-sacrificing. "We ought also to lay down our lives for the brethren" (1 John 3:16).
4. It ought to be a love well guided and controlled. "This I pray, that your love may abound yet more and more in knowledge and all judgment" (Philippians 1:9).
5. It ought to be a constant love like that of Christ. "Having loved his own which were in the world, he loved them unto the end" (John 13:1).
6. It ought to be a decisive test as to our condition in God's sight. "He that loveth his brother abideth in the light, and there is none occasion of stumbling in him" (1 John 2:10). "We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren" (1 John 3:14).
7. It must be a love recommended by the highest examples. "God is love." "If God so loved us, we ought also to love one another." We are to "walk in love, as Christ also loved us." "Let the same mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus" (Philippians 2:5).—T.C.
The pattern of Christian love.
"As Christ also hath loved us, and hath given himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling savor." Jesus was an example of love in his life, for he went about every day doing good (Acts 10:38). But it is to his suffering of death that the apostle points us for the most sublime and impressive illustration of his love. The words suggest many pregnant thoughts.
I. WHO OFFERED HIMSELF? It was Christ, the only begotten Son of God. It was his own voluntary act. "Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends" (John 15:13). "Who loved me, and gave himself for me" (Galatians 2:20). It was love that prompted the gift of himself—eternal, infinite, free.
II. WHAT DID HE OFFER? Himself. Not the blood of others, much less the blood of bulls and goats. It was the offering of the body of Christ (Hebrews 10:10).
III. FOR WHOM? For us, while we were yet enemies (Romans 5:10). Whether he died in our stead or merely for our benefit is determined by the context, which represents him as giving himself "an offering and a sacrifice." This language marks the distinctly substitutionary character of Christ's death, just as he is himself described elsewhere as "a ransom for many."
IV. TO WHOM DID HE OFFER HIMSELF? To God. That is, with the design that God might accept the sacrifice. God had pleasure in the death and atonement of his Son.
V. IN WHAT MANNER? "As an offering and a sacrifice." The term "offering" applies to propitiatory sacrifices, as well as to free-will offerings (Hebrews 10:18, Hebrews 10:14). The additional word, "sacrifice," marks the clearly propitiatory character of his offering (Hebrews 7:27).
VI. WITH WHAT RESULT? "For a sweet-smelling savor." This phrase is applied to propitiatory as well as to free-will offerings, as, for example, to the burnt offerings of Noah (Genesis 8:21). The sacrifice of Christ was well-pleasing to God, who could henceforth manifest his character "as just, and the Justifier of him who believeth in Jesus." The whole passage teaches us:
1. The unsoundness of that theology which sees in the sufferings of Christ, not a propitiatory sacrifice, but the love, faith, and submission of God's Son, as an example to man. This view is altogether one-sided.
2. The unsoundness of that theology which sees in his sufferings a mere exhibition of love, without that element of righteousness which made these sufferings necessary. If love alone could save, why should he have suffered or died at all? It is the atoning love that is the element of consolation to man.
3. The unsoundness of that theology which sees the redeeming power of Christ in his birth rather than in his death, as if the event of Bethlehem were transcendently more important than the event of Golgotha.
4. That there is in Christ's love, not merely a force of argument or motive, but a very rule or measure, of the love which we ought to exercise toward each other in the bonds of the gospel.—T.C.
Warnings against impurity of all kinds.
The sins here described were common among the heathen, and received no adequate check from their moral guides. Indeed, the old pagan world regarded them as things indifferent. They are, for the most part, sins against ourselves, as the sins condemned in the previous verses are sins against our neighbors. They are to be condemned on many grounds.
I. THEY ARE EXPRESS VIOLATIONS OF THE DIVINE LAW. (Exodus 20:14.)
II. THEY ARE DISHONOURING TO GOD AND HIS HOLINESS. The corruption that is in the world through lust is inconsistent with the Divine nature (2 Peter 1:4).
III. THEY THWART THE DESIGN OF THE GOSPEL OF CHRIST, which is "to purify a people to himself" (Titus 2:14); "to cleanse us from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit" (2 Corinthians 7:1). Jesus suffered in the flesh that we should die to the flesh (1 Peter 4:1).
IV. THEY GRIEVE THE HOLY SPIRIT, whose office is to sanctify us (Ephesians 4:29, Ephesians 4:30). "That pure and holy dove will not dwell in a cage of unclean and filthy birds."
V. THEY DISHONOUR THE BODY, which is the temple of the Holy Ghost (1 Corinthians 6:18). They waste it as well as dishonor it (Proverbs 5:11).
VI. THEY WAR AGAINST THE SOUL in every sense of the term—against its life, its aspirations, its happiness (1 Peter 2:11). They even darken the judgment and the understanding (Hosea 4:11). No sort of sin so hardens the heart.
VII. THEY PROVOKE GOD'S AUGER. (Colossians 3:5, Colossians 3:6; Jeremiah 5:7; Ephesians 5:6.) "For the wrath of God cometh upon the children of disobedience." They subject transgressors to God's judgment, for "whoremongers and adulterers God wilt judge "(Hebrews 13:4). And they keep them out of heaven (1 Corinthians 6:9; 1 Corinthians 6:5). These sins of impurity are not even to be named among saints, who are to be pure in thought, pure in heart, pure in speech, pure in life. "Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, that ye should obey it in the lusts thereof" (Romans 6:12). To this end we must:
1. Avoid all the occasions that prompt to impurity:
(1) idleness (Ezekiel 16:49);
(2) evil company (Proverbs 7:25); and
(3) all other sins (Proverbs 1:25).
2. Make a covenant with our eyes (Job 31:1).
3. Watch over our thoughts (Ma Ephesians 2:16).
4. Delight in God's Word (Proverbs 2:10, Proverbs 2:16).
5. Continue in prayer (Psalms 119:37).—T.C.
Warning against covetousness.
It is singular to find covetousness, which is often the sin of respectability, linked with sins of gross impurity. In reality it springs from selfishness, like these other sins. It has its origin in the same unholy root.
I. CONSIDER THE NATURE OF COVETOUSNESS. It is the inordinate love of riches, manifesting itself in several ways.
1. In the eager anxiety to attain wealth, without respect either to God's glory or our own spiritual good.
2. In a sinful acquisition of wealth by extortion or fraud. (1 Kings 21:2, 1 Kings 21:13; Proverbs 10:2; Proverbs 28:8.)
3. In a reluctance to use our wealth for good ends. (1 Timothy 6:17, 1 Timothy 6:18.)
II. HOW IS COVETOUSNESS TO BE REGARDED AS "IDOLATRY?" It is to make a god of our possessions and to give them the homage of our hearts. All the essential elements of idolatry are included in this worldly disposition. The covetous man transfers to riches the love, desire, joy, trust, and labor which God demands for himself. His sin is all the greater because he knows that his god is no god. The warning of the text is applicable
(1) to all whose thoughts run more upon earth than upon heaven (Luke 12:22, Luke 12:25, Luke 12:29);
(2) to all whose comfort depends upon worldly successes (Luke 12:19);
(3) to all who grudge the time that is spent in religious duties (Amos 8:5).
The sin of covetousness is, therefore, to be jealously avoided
(1) because it is odious to God "The covetous whom the Lord abhorreth" (Psalms 10:3);
(2) because it is destructive to ourselves, in turning our hearts from God (1 John 2:15), in filling our hearts with trouble and care (1 Timothy 6:9, 1 Timothy 6:10), and in keeping us out of the kingdom of God (Ephesians 5:5). Let us, therefore, estimate the world at its true value, meditate much on the fatherly care of our God (Luke 12:31, Luke 12:32; Matthew 6:25, Matthew 6:26), act in faith upon the promises (Hebrews 13:5), and remember the terrible brand of idolatry which rests upon covetousness. It is a solemn thought that the most common of all sins is the most serious in God's sight. Yet there is nothing in the condemnation of this sin that justifies the theory of other-worldliness, or the neglect of the duties of common life.—T.C.
Warning against unbecoming speech.
"Neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor jesting, which are not convenient: but rather giving of thanks."
I. THERE ARE THREE VARIETIES OF UNEDIFYING SPEECH.
1. "Filthiness." This term, though referring to acts as much as words, points especially to that obscenity of speech which is so disgusting to the moral sense of man. It is proof of a corrupt heart—for "out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh"—and, more than anything else, makes the tongue "a fire, a world of iniquity," even "set on fire of hell."
2. "Foolish talking." This is the talking that will have many idle words to answer for at the day of judgment (Matthew 12:36). It is more than mere random gossip; it is the talk of fools which is folly and sin; it includes "corrupt speech" (Ephesians 4:29). It is aimless, senseless, frivolous talk. Our talk ought to be full of reason and purpose, and bright with happy suggestion.
3. "Jesting." The apostle does not condemn the pleasantry which lends such a grace and joy to conversation, but the wit that is allied to lewdness, brimming over in double entendres, and tending to demoralization.
II. THE APOSTLE'S JUDGMENT UPON THESE KINDS OF SPEECH. "Which are not convenient."
1. They are not so in themselves, for the character of impropriety essentially attaches to each of them.
2. They are not so in the speakers, who incur a still deeper reproach and prepare for themselves a graver judgment.
3. They are not so for the hearers, who, though they may be amused for the moment, are not profited, but rather debased by such conversation.
III. THE RIGHT USE OF THE TONGUE. "Giving of thanks." Christian cheerfulness ought to express itself, not in buffoonery or levity, but in thanksgiving and praise. We have much to be thankful for in our daily lot, and the thought of the indulgent kindness which supplies all our need ought to repress anything like foolish or scurrilous discourse. The language of thankfulness will minister grace to the hearers.—T.C.
Divine wrath upon disobedience.
It was necessary for the apostle to mark the true nature and real end of impurity in all its manifestations. "Let no man deceive you with vain words."
I. IT IS NO UNUSUAL EXPERIENCE FOR WICKED MEN NOT TO SEE THE WICKEDNESS OF THEIR ACTS. The heathen regarded moral purity as a thing indifferent, and many of their moral guides palliated some of the worst features of pagan sensuality. They argued, as some have argued in modern times with a wicked levity of purpose, that tins of impurity have their origin and their justification in the very constitution of our nature, that they are not inconsistent with many social virtues, and that they are not injurious to others. It is one of the blinding effects of sin that men do not see their sin "through the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart" (Ephesians 4:18).
II. IT IS A MISTAKE TO SUPPOSE THAT THE WRATH OF GOD IS LIMITED TO THE PRESENT LIFE, and is merely entailed through the connection established by the Divine government between sin and suffering. There is such a connection written in the physical constitution of man. Sinners often in this life receive in themselves "that recompense of their error which is meet" (Romans 1:27). The drunkard is punished here in broken health, in loss of substance, reputation, and happiness. But we are not to suppose that the laws of Providence which ensure these results exhaust the fullness of Divine wrath against sin. Scripture tells us plainly that sins of impurity entail exclusion "from the kingdom of Christ and of God" (Ephesians 5:5); that he will judge whoremongers and adulterers (Hebrews 13:5), and that "the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake that burneth with fire and brimstone" (Revelation 21:8).—T.C.
Separation from evil.
The apostle counsels believers not to be partakers with sinners. That is, in their sins, not their punishment. We are here taught—
I. THAT IT IS POSSIBLE FOR BELIEVERS TO PARTAKE OF THE SINS OF OTHERS. They may do so by conniving at them, by not checking or punishing them, by not mourning over them, as well as by actually committing them. It is a dishonor to God, a lure to others, a mischief to ourselves, to stand in the way of transgressors.
II. THAT BELIEVERS OUGHT TO MAINTAIN A VERY SEPARATE WALK IN THE WORLD. They who have named the name of Christ ought to depart from iniquity (2 Timothy 2:19). The cry to them ever is," Come out from among them, and be ye separate" (2 Corinthians 6:17). There is no common standing-room for Christ and Belial in the Church. This does not countenance our separation from society; for Jesus, who was" separate from sinners," was always in society that he might win stoners to God. Our walk is yet to be as separate as it is to be circumspect, that we may stand apart from the plagues that will descend upon a doomed world.—T.C.
The darkness turned into light.
As a reason for their not lapsing into vices from which they had escaped, the apostle reminds them of the darkness of their pagan condition.
I. THEY WERE ONCE DARKNESS ITSELF. "Ye were sometimes darkness." The phrase is very impressive, for it indicates a moral as well as an intellectual darkness. A hard heart is always linked with a blinded understanding. The two act and react upon each other, becoming alternately cause and effect. Men do not care to retain the knowledge of God in their thoughts, and God, in judgment, gives them over to a reprobate mind. The most enlightened natures of the ancient world were thus "darkness" itself. Athens, the eye of Greece, inscribed upon an altar the confession of its ignorance. The phrase, "darkness," suggests three thoughts.
1. There is fear in darkness—the fear of enemies, the fear of death, the fear of undefined agencies. Heathenism was full of fears. Death was a dark and terrible specter.
2. There is discomfort in darkness. Light, its opposite, is the symbol of joy.
3. There is danger in darkness. Enemies use the nights for their deeds of violence. We stumble on a dark night; we fall down precipices; we take a wrong road. How expressive is the term as applied to the heathen!
II. THEY ARE SOW "LIGHT IN THE LORD." Conversion has wrought a radical change in the understanding as well as the heart. Believers are now light "in fellowship with the Lord" (1 John 1:3). There is more implied than the flashing into a human mind the knowledge of the truth; there is the renewing of that mind into the love of the truth which it knows. Otherwise the light would torment and not comfort. But believers, thus doubly furnished may well be called "light in the Lord." The light of the sun does not stream down directly upon the world; at least, it comes to the service of men reflected from a thousand objects which receive it upon their surfaces; similarly the world sees the glory of the Sun of righteousness reflected in the millions of saints who are "lights in the Lord."
III. THE DUTY OF BELIEVERS IN THESE CIRCUMSTANCES—"WALK AS CHILDREN OF LIGHT." That is, as those in nearest connection with it.
1. As light signifies joy, believers walk in the joy of an assured hope and a perpetual cleansing. "If we walk in the light, as he is in the light, .. the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin" (1 John 1:7).
2. We walk in the day and therefore should not stumble. "The darkness is past, and the true light now shineth" (1 John 2:8). We ought to keep an eye fixed on the straight path of duty, and avoid the by-paths that lead to darkness and ruin.
3. If we walk in the light, we ought clearly to recognize the fellowship of all travelers to Zion. "If we walk in the light .. we have fellowship one with another." We are going the same way, inspired by the same hopes, meeting the same difficulties, arriving at last at the same home.—T.C.
The fruit of the light.
It is shown or seen in all the forms of "goodness and righteousness and truth." The good, the right, the true, are only to be realized through the light that streams from the Sun of righteousness—"the true light" that "now shineth." The apostle says the fruit, not the fruits, of the light—as if to show that it takes all the three colors to make this light. Christianity would be a very imperfect; manifestation of God if a single one of these elements were missing from the true light.
I. GOODNESS. It is spoken of elsewhere as a fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22), and therefore is not mere beneficence, for it has its source in religious principle. This excellence, in its various aspects of kindness and generosity, is kindled by the light that illuminates the understanding.
II. RIGHTEOUSNESS. The light which communicates a knowledge of righteousness to the mind also infuses a love of righteousness into the affections. This principle has a due sense of Divine obligation, and subjects the believer in every relation of life to the guidance of Divine Law.
III. TRUTH. This is a direct emanation of the light. It is religious truth, working ultimately to truth of character in all the genuine forms of Christian life.—T.C.
The experimental test of the Lord's will.
As the ninth verse is a parenthesis, the apostle states that it is by walking as children of light we are in a position to prove "what is well-pleasing unto the Lord."
I. CONSIDER THE TRUE STANDARD OF JUDGMENT AS TO RIGHT AND WRONG. The believer is not to discover it in whatever may be well-pleasing to himself, but in what is well-pleasing to the Lord. It is the Lord Jesus Christ who is Lord of the conscience to regulate all our thoughts and all our actions. He has a supreme lordship over our life as well as over our death: "For whether we live we live unto the Lord." He is thus not merely Savior and Example, but Director of his people in all the concerns of religious life. In difficult situations, therefore, the true casuistry of life is to ask—Will this action be well-pleasing to Christ?
II. CONSIDER THE SUBJECTIVE TEST OF THIS DIVINE WILL. Believers are enabled, in the clear light in which they walk, to discover the right path. It is through their being transformed by the renewing of their mind that they "prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God"( Romans 12:2). Similarly we learn that "if any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God" (John 7:17). Light admitted into the understanding contributes to win the affections, and, the affections won, open wide the doors for the admission of more light. To know the law you love and to love the law you know is the best condition in which human beings can be. It is the union of clear light in the understanding with perfect purity of heart which distinguishes the kingdom of redemption in its final practical triumph.—T.C.
Separation and rebuke the true attitude toward works of darkness.
The apostle thus describes the duty of Christians in reference to evil works.
I. THE CHARACTER OF THESE WORKS. "Unfruitful works of darkness." They spring out of darkness, they delight in darkness, they lead to darkness eternal. They are not naturally unfruitful, for they are fearfully prolific of result, but, in the light of God they are fruitless, because most unlike to the fruits of light, which are goodness, righteousness, and truth. They have "no fruit unto holiness," with an end of eternal life (Romans 6:22).
II. THE DUTY OF SEPARATION FROM THEM. This is a negative security. Christians are to stand apart from every evil work. There must be no fellowship with darkness. The friendship of the world can only be purchased at the cost of the Father's friendship (James 4:4).
III. THE DUTY OF REBUKING WORKS OR DARKNESS. This is to be done with the view of producing a consciousness of guilt and evil. The Christian attitude must be aggressive toward all the forms of sin. The rebuke is to be administered
(1) with the lips, using all plainness, yet with prudence and meekness, so as to win Gentiles to the truth;
(2) with our lives, which, by their holy separateness, ought to demonstrate the folly and sin of the world. A holy man is a visible reproof of sin.
IV. THE REASON FOR THIS ATTITUDE OF SEPARATION AND REBUKE. The heinousness of the sins and the necessity of making them manifest to the sinner's conscience.
1. The sins are
(1) done in secret,
(2) and they are too shameful for mention.
Such sins would naturally shun the light of day, for "every one that doeth evil hateth the light" (John 3:20), and could not be committed to language without risk of defilement to others.
2. Yet they are not beyond cure. The light of Divine truth must be let fall upon them, that they may be corrected. "All things that are reproved are made manifest by the light." There is a necessary connection in Scripture between truth and holiness, and the truth must first be applied to the ignorant and the wicked, that it may make way for the sanctifying agency of the Spirit. The sun-glass of truth held in the hand of the rebuker will concentrate the light from heaven upon the conscience of the sinner so that he will see it full of all nameless lusts, and that very light will kindle a fire to consume them, unless the sinner, loving darkness, should turn away from the unwelcome light. Therefore let Christians remember the duty of pious and prudent reproof, which may not only put sin to shame, if not to silence, but lead the sinner from darkness to light, from the kingdom of Satan to the kingdom of God's dear SON.—T.C.
The trumpet-call of the gospel.
Since it is light that manifests, there must be a rousing voice to awake the sleeper, that the light of life may be poured fully upon him.
I. THE PERSON ADDRESSED. "Thou that sleepest." Sleep is an apt figure to describe the sinner.
1. He lives in an unreal world, full of dreams and fancies, quite unconscious of the real world around him. The sinner dreams of safety and peace. He is carnally secure (Romans 13:10; 1 Thessalonians 5:6). He may even walk in his sleep.
2. He is wholly unprotected against danger. If he knew of his danger, he would not be asleep. He needs, therefore, to be roused.
3. His work is wholly suspended. So long as the sinner sleeps in spiritual death he does no good, he gets no good, he cares for nothing. The figure of the text is, therefore, very expressive.
II. THE COMMAND ADDRESSED TO THE SLEEPER. "Awake .. and arise from the dead." The first thing is to open the eyes; but we are not to suppose that the sinner has any power of himself to open them, any more than the man with the withered hand had power to stretch it forth before Christ said, "Stretch forth thine hand." It is the light which Christ is to shed upon the sleeper that will awake him. Just as the sun in the natural heavens, shining upon the eye of a sleeper, awakes him, so the beams of the Sun of righteousness end the sleep of death.
1. The cry, "Awake!" is the voice of love. A mother's love will lull her child to sleep, but if the house is on fire, it will take another turn, and startle the child from its slumbers.
2. The cry, "Awake!" is the voice of wisdom. The sinner loses much by sleeping. The thief pilfers by night. The tare-sower goes forth in darkness to sow his seed. If you sleep on till death, you lose everything.
3. The cry is a voice of command. Who commands? It is he who redeemed you with his precious blood.
4. It is a voice you have often heard—in sermons, in sickness, in sorrows, in calamities.
III. THE PROMISE TO THE SLEEPER. "And Christ shall give thee light." The light that comes from Christ can reach even the dead: "The hour is coming, and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God: and they that hear shall live" (John 5:25). The dead are not quickened before they hear his voice, but his voice causes them to hear and live. Christ will give you light to carry you out of the society of the dead into the companionship of the children of light, because it has already introduced you into the fellowship of the Father and the Son. "Let us therefore cast off the works of darkness, and put on the amour of light."—T.C.
Ephesians 5:15, Ephesians 5:16
The circumspect walk.
I. ITS NECESSITY. The duty of reproof involved the necessity of circumspection in those who were bound to administer it. It may be a small thing to Christians "to be judged of man's judgment" (1 Corinthians 4:3), yet they cannot afford to disregard the force of public opinion. They ought to "have a good report of them which are without" (1 Timothy 3:7). It is evidently with reference to onlookers that the counsel of the apostle is given. "Walk m wisdom toward them that are without, redeeming the time" (Colossians 4:5). When we consider the number of our enemies, the inconstancy of our minds, the strictness of the Divine requirements, and the jealousy our Divine Master cherishes over his people, it is impossible to walk acceptably unless we walk circumspectly.
II. THE NATURE OF THIS WALK. We are to "walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise."
1. We are to have knowledge of the true way (Jeremiah 6:16; Matthew 7:14), not as the fool, who misses the path.
2. We are to follow the light that falls upon our path, not like the fool, who turns aside to darkness, only to stumble in it (Proverbs 4:27).
3. We are to foresee the dangers of the way and provide against them, not like "the simple, who pass on and are punished" (Proverbs 22:3).
4. We are to have the Lord for our Companion by the way, like "Enoch, who walked with God" (Genesis 5:22). The fool seeks the company of the foolish.
5. We are to keep in view the end of our walk. "Receiving the end of your faith, even the salvation of your souls" (1 Peter 1:9).
III. THE APPLICATION OF THIS PRINCIPLE TO THE PROFITABLE USE OF OPPORTUNITY. "Redeeming the time, because the days are evil." There can be no wise or careful walking without a due consideration both of the value of time and of the importance of using our opportunities for doing good.
1. The nature of this redemption of time. It is not the mere effort to rescue the fleeting hours of our life from idleness, vanity, distraction, or excessive devotion to business, but an effort to lay hold of opportunities for doing good, to make the most of them, to allow no distractions of pleasure or life to stand in the way of their right employment. Jesus, in his extreme youth, was eager to be "about his Father's business" (Luke 2:49). We are to do good unto all men "as we have opportunity" (Galatians 6:10). We are to do good to our very enemies, after the example of that Father who "maketh his sun to rise upon the evil and the good" (Matthew 5:45). We are to use our opportunities also for receiving good, giving all diligence to make our calling and our election sure (2 Peter 1:10).
2. Reasons for redeeming the time. "Because the days are evil." It is not because our days are few, though that is also a very good reason.
(1) We have lost much time already (1 Peter 4:3);
(2) we do not know how much time yet remains to us (James 4:14);
(3) we have to give an account of all our time and opportunities.
The reason assigned by the apostle is the evil of the days. Time must not be lost if the evil is to be quickly and effectively counteracted. The apostle does not hint the nature of the evil. Yet it is allowable to suppose that the days were evil, not in themselves, but by reason of man's wickedness and folly.
(1) It is the evil of sin, rather than the evil of punishment, that is meant.
(2) It is part of the evil that men do not see it at all.
(3) It is part of the evil that they do not mourn over it.
(4) It is part of the evil that they will do nothing to remove it.
There is, therefore, all the more reason for Christians bestirring themselves in all seasons and spheres of action to counteract the evil of the days.—T.C.
The right understanding of duty.
This is necessary to its efficient performance.
I. UNWISDOM. The thought of the apostle turns upon the misapplication or misdirection of our powers. "Be ye not unthinking and senseless." It is a sin against our rational nature, against our high calling, against the Lord, not to use our intellectual faculties with supreme relation to the Lord's will.
II. THE IMPORTANCE OF A TRUE KNOWLEDGE OF THE LORD'S WILL. Religion is a question of knowledge as well as feeling. Knowledge supplies the basis of feeling. Though Scripture tells us not to lean to our own understanding, it tells us to love with knowledge and all judgment. The knowledge is needed both to stimulate and to regulate the love. We must know our duties, dangers, temptations, in respect to every condition of life in which we are placed by Divine providence. It is the will of the Lord Jesus Christ which supplies the true standard of action to every Christian. The direction of our life is to be determined by his precepts.—T.C.
Warning against drunkenness.
The tremendous sin of intemperance must have had a great hold upon a commercial city like Ephesus. It was necessary that Christians should beware of such an insidious vice.
I. IT DISHONOURS THE LAW OF GOD. (Romans 13:13.)
II. IT DISTURBS THE REASON OF MAN.
III. IT ENDANGERS THE HEALTH OF THE BODY.
IV. IT INJURES THE SOUL. (Hosea 4:11.)
V. IT WASTES THE SUBSTANCE AND TENDS TO BEGGARY. (Proverbs 23:21.)
VI. IT CONSUMES PRECIOUS TIME AND DETERIORATES THE CHARACTER OF WORK.
VII. IT IS THE CAUSE OF OTHER SINS. Such as swearing, strife, licentiousness (Proverbs 23:19).
VIII. IT UNFITS FOR RELIGIOUS DUTIES.
IX. IT KEEPS SOULS OUT OF THE KINGDOM OF GOD. (1 Corinthians 6:9.) Therefore Christians ought to avoid it, abstaining altogether from intoxicating drinks on the grounds of Christian expediency, and using their influence to rescue others from its ruinous fascination.—T.C.
The true antidote to drunkenness.
There is a real contrast here exhibited between fullness of wine and fullness of the Spirit. There is an intensity of feeling produced in both cases. "There is one intensity of feeling produced by stimulating the senses; another, by vivifying the spiritual life within. The one commences with impulses from without, the other is guarded by forces from within." The one tends to ruin, the other to salvation. The Spirit-fullness "will keep the soul holy, the body chaste, and render the Christian fit for the service of God on earth and meet for the fruition and enjoyment of God in heaven." The exhilaration caused by the Spirit finds a threefold expression.
I. IN PSALMS, HYMNS, AND SPIRITUAL SONGS.
1. The heathen festivals were remarkable for songs of drunken revelry. The excitement of the worshippers found vent in singing. Christians are likewise to express their exhilaration in songs. "The hearts and spirits of good men are full of spiritual mirth and joy; they are as merry in the Lord as sinners in their lust; it is, therefore, lawful and laudable for them to express their mirth and give vent to their spiritual joy by singing."
2. There is a happy variety in such songs adapted to the various moods of the singers. We have the Psalms of David; we have the hymns composed by pious men like Zacharias and Simeon; and we have the compositions, for public assemblies, of those inspired by the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 14:1-46.14.40.).
3. There must be a harmony in these songs between the artistic service of the voice and the inner melody of the heart. Otherwise the spirit and meaning of the exercise will disappear.
4. Singing has always been a powerful instrument of promoting the spread of true religion (Reformation, periods of revival).
5. The singing here enjoined was for social intercourse as well as for the public assemblies of worship. Christians ought to exercise their gifts of song to spiritual ends.
II. IN GIVING OF THANKS. The heart which is filled with the Spirit brims over with thankfulness.
1. To whom thanks are to be given. "To God, even the Father." To God as the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, and therefore our Father in him.
(1) Because it is only from him we have anything that is good (James 1:17);
(2) because it is only by him we are preserved from evil (Psalms 121:7);
(3) because he only is good in himself (Luke 18:19).
2. How should we give thanks to him?
(1) By humble confession of our unworthiness (Genesis 32:10; Ephesians 3:8);
(2) by humble acknowledgment of his mercies (Proverbs 3:6; Psalms 145:1-19.145.9);
(3) by improving everything to his glory (Proverbs 3:9);
(4) by walking before him in all well-pleasing.
3. What must we thank him for? "For all things."
(1) For our mercies—for sparing mercy, for recovering mercy, for mercies both received and expected. You cannot expect a blessing in them unless you are thankful for them; and the more thankful you are for mercies received the more reason is there for your expecting more.
(2) For all providences—for prosperity or adversity, for health or sickness. The afflictions may be mixed with mercies, and may be the means of quickening our graces (Psalms 119:67).
4. How often must we thank him? "Always." It must be continuous. The heart must be kept in a constantly thankful frame, and not expend itself at mere intervals in acts of devout thanksgiving.
5. Through whom are our thanksgivings to be made acceptable to God? "In the Name of our Lord Jesus Christ." We are authorized to use this Name as our warrant for expecting the acceptance of our services as well as the fullest enjoyment of all spiritual mercies.
III. MUTUAL SUBMISSION. The effect of the Spirit's full enjoyment is to produce a humble and loving spirit among Christian people.
1. The duty of mutual submission. This principle, which is inconsistent with a reverse egotism or a self-opinionated superiority, has great and happy effects. It reduces the friction of human life, and contributes greatly to its comfort and peace. It has nothing in common with the servile and obsequious temper which is such a dishonor to manhood. Let us mutually condescend to each other. "In lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves" (Philippians 2:3). "All of you be subject one to another, and be clothed with humility" (1 Peter 5:5). We are not isolated units in society. "The essential equality of men and their mutual dependence lay the foundation for the obligation of mutual subjection."
2. The element or sphere in which this duty is to be maintained. "In the fear of Christ." This is not terror, but the solemn reverence with which we bow to the authority of our Divine Lord. Our submission is grounded in our reverence for him, in our fear of offending him by our airs of assumption or authority, in our supreme regard for his holy will. Thus Christianity lifts the commonest duties and civilities and amenities of social life into the highest sphere, by connecting them with the supreme lordship of Christ over his saints.—T.C.
The duties of wives.
In enforcing relative duties the apostle reminds us that religion takes hold of all possible conditions and callings of men. Religion is the great formative grace for men. We are set in a curiously various scheme of relations, in which the two principles of union and subjection are beautifully blended. The three relations in which these principles are seen in operation are peculiar to family life. The wife is first mentioned, then the children, then the servants. Religion rounds out the life of the family in a lovely completeness. Consider—
I. THE DUTIES OF WIVES. They are all summed up in the one word—subjection. It is singular that the apostle does not command the wife to love her husband as the husband is commanded to love his wife. Her love is commanded elsewhere (Titus 2:4), but not here. It has been observed that what is instinctive is not enforced, but only what is necessary to hallow and direct our instincts. The husband is to be the head; yet he is not commanded to govern; but he is commanded to love, as the means of securing subjection or submission on the part of the wife. She, again, loves more naturally and more passionately than man; her love is no subject of command, it is taken for granted; and the apostle commands her to obey and honor her husband as the best expression of this love. Jeremy Taylor says, "He rules her by authority, she rules him by love; she ought by all means to please him, and he must by no means displease her." Her great duty, then, is subjection. Let us see what it involves.
1. It is not servitude. It is not like the obedience of servants to masters, nor even like that of children to parents. It is a submission that recognizes the husband's rule as just, tender, and wise.
2. It is a wise and loving obedience. Wives are "to be obedient to their own husbands" (Titus 2:5). Sarah is quoted by another apostle as an example of this obedience (1 Peter 3:1-60.3.6). It was necessary to emphasize this duty at a time when Christianity gave woman a new position of dignity and privilege, and when there might have been a temptation on the part of Christian wives who had unbelieving husbands to assert an authority over them inconsistent with the original institution of marriage. There is to be no dual authority in the family. The gospel made them both "heirs together of the grace of life," as it made "both male and female one in Christ," yet, even in religious or ecclesiastical matters, she was not to usurp authority over the man, but "to be in silence" (1 Timothy 2:12).
3. It is an obedience within limits, though the wives are enjoined to be subject to their husbands "in everything," that is, in everything within the due sphere of a husband's authority, for they are not to obey him in anything contrary to God and his Law. They are to obey God rather than man.
4. It is an obedience fashioned in its conditions and spirit upon the subjection of the Church to Christ. "As the Church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in everything." This implies that the wife's obedience is not to be forced or feigned, but springing naturally out of her affection to her husband, her dependence upon him, and her recognition of the just grounds of his superiority.
5. It implies fear, or reverence. "Let the wife see that she reverence her husband" (Ephesians 5:33), not despising him in her heart, as Michal despised David (2 Samuel 6:16), but, like Sarah, calling her husband "lord" (1 Peter 3:6). The chaste conversation of the wife is to be "coupled with fear" to assert its own power.
II. THE REASONS FOR THIS SUBMISSION.
1. The husband's recognized headship in the original institution of marriage. "The head of the woman is the man" (1 Corinthians 11:3). Her obedience, therefore, while a religious duty, has its foundation in nature.
(1) The man was first formed. "Adam was first formed, then Eve" (1 Timothy 2:13).
(2) The man was not created for the woman, but the woman for the man (1 Corinthians 11:9).
(3) The woman was first in transgression. "Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression" (1 Timothy 2:14).
(4) The woman is the "glory of the man," but "the man is the image and glory of God" (1 Corinthians 11:7).
2. Her dependent position. As the "weaker vessel," she needs protection, while he far excels her in those qualities which entitle to command. Yet his superiority in these respects is consistent with his inferiority to the woman in gentleness, patience, sympathy, love, delicacy of sentiment.
3. The fitness of things. She is "to be subject to her own husband." This expressive phrase points to the closeness, exclusiveness, and specialty of the relationship. It is thus a great mischief to unsex woman by denying or disregarding the superiority of man.
4. The similarity of the relation to that between the Church and Christ. "As the Church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in everything." As Christ is the Source of authority and direction to the Church, as he exercises both with meekness and gentleness, so is the husband to the wife. She is bound, therefore, to give him the obedience the Church gives to Christ, limited, of course, by the nature of the relation and the authority of God. She is not to identify her husband's claims with Christ, as if her Savior could supersede or weaken the just authority of her husband over her. A religious wife loves and honors her husband all the more from the very intenseness of her love to Christ. Her very obedience, too, fashioned upon the obedience of the Church to Christ, becomes tributary to her influence over her husband. Christianity has lifted woman to a high place, but without unsexing her. The old pagan writer, Libanius, might well exclaim, "Oh what women these Christians have!"—T.C.
The duties of husbands.
As the duties of wives are comprehended in the single duty of subjection, the duties of husbands are comprehended in the single duty of love. The injunction is significantly repeated three times, as if to indicate that it was essentially needed to correct or qualify his sense of sovereignty or superiority over her. Consider three points.
I. THE CHARACTERISTICS OF A HUSBAND'S LOVE.
1. It is peculiar in its nature, unlike the love of parent or child, friend or neighbor. "He is to love his wife even as himself."
2. It is single, exclusive, and undivided in its object; for the husband is to devote to his one wife all the affection of his life. "Rejoice with the wife of thy youth" (Proverbs 5:18, Proverbs 5:19). This fact is the condemnation of bigamy and polygamy.
3. It is to be considerate and tender, excluding all bitterness. "Husbands, love your wives, and be not bitter against them" (Colossians 3:19). Husbands are "to dwell with their wives according to knowledge" (1 Peter 3:7); that is, with a due consideration to their condition as "the weaker vessel," and with a disposition to hide or bear with their weaknesses or infirmities. It is to be a love that will make it unnecessary for the husband ever to command his wife. The gospel counterpart of "Wives submit yourselves to your own husbands," is not "Husbands, command our wives." but "love your wives."
4. It is to be mutual. The wife's love is presupposed, though elsewhere it is expressly commanded (Titus 2:4). The husband is to love her as she loves him. The rightful confidence and sympathy of married life are impossible without mutual affection. All marriages of convenience or self-interest are thus condemned. Love must be the basis of marriage.
5. It is to be constant and lasting, notwithstanding all the weaknesses or failings of the wife.
II. THE METHODS IN WHICH THIS LOVE IS TO FIND EXPRESSION.
1. In providing for the temporal support of a wife. The husband is to "nourish and cherish" his wife. He that provideth not for his own is worse than an unbeliever (1 Timothy 5:3).
2. He must consult her happiness and pleasure; for "he that is married is to care that he may please his wife" (1 Corinthians 7:33).
3. He must protect her life, her honor, her good name; for she is "the weaker vessel." He must "give honor to the wife" (1 Peter 3:7).
4. He is to seek her spiritual welfare. He is to pray for her and with her, remembering that she is an heir with him of the grace of life, "that your prayers be not hindered."
III. THE REASONS FOR THIS COMMAND.
1. The original law of marriage. "For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife, and the twain shall become one flesh." The union implies such an identification of interest, property, and relationship to the world as to make them almost one person.
2. The wife is the husband's other self. She is not only one flesh with himself, but she is his very body. "No man ever yet hated his own flesh," except the fanatics of ascetic devotion.
3. The help, comfort, and blessing she brings to him. She is given to him as "an helpmeet;" she is his companion. "Yet she is thy companion and the wife of thy covenant" (Ma Ephesians 2:14). The heart of the husband "safely trusts in her" (Proverbs 12:4).
4. She is the weaker vessel. A spirit of chivalry ought to surround her with the shield of protecting love.
5. She is "the glory of the man" (1 Corinthians 11:7)—his honor and ornament and delight.
6. His union with her is typical of the blessed union that exists between Christ and the Church. All the love and self-sacrifice and service Which Christ expended upon the Church supply the type of a husband's duty to his wife.—T.C.
The union between Christ and the Church.
The apostle unites, with an exposition of the duties of conjugal life, a very impressive statement of the nature of the union between Christ and the Church This statement is exceedingly important, quite irrespective of its supplying an illustration of the ground and measure of a husband's affection for his wife. There are three truths here exhibited respecting the union of Christ and his Church.
I. CHRIST IS THE HEAD OF THE CHURCH AS WELL AS THE SAVIOUR OF THE BODY. He not only saves the Church, but governs it; he not only redeemed it by his atoning death, but is its continuous Preserver and Director, his life the very life of his people: "Because I live, ye shall live also."
II. CHRIST PREPARES THE CHURCH FOR HIMSELF AS HIS SPOTLESS BRIDE.
1. The language implies that the Church was originally impure, in fact, like the foundling infant of the prophet exposed on the day of its birth, "to the loathing of its person" (Ezekiel 16:1-26.16.63.). If she had not been so, there would have been no need of Christ's glorious cleansing.
2. It was through his death that Christ designed to make his people holy. "He gave himself" for them (Ephesians 5:25). The language is clearly sacrificial. The gift involved a death of unutterable anguish, yet he shrank not from it in his unutterable love. It is the death which secures our ultimate holiness, for it reconciles us to God and secures to us the gift of the Holy Spirit. We are redeemed from the curse of the Law, that "we might receive the promise of the Spirit" (Galatians 3:13, Galatians 3:14).
3. The application of the atonement. "That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the Word;" or, rather, "that, having purified it, he might consecrate it." The Church is thus set apart as his bride—"the Lamb's wife." It is thus that Christ sanctifies his people with his blood (Hebrews 10:10; Hebrews 13:11, Hebrews 13:12), not merely by way of expiation, but by way of consecrating them to himself. The instrumental means of the Church's sanctification is "the washing of water by the Word." This points clearly to baptism, which is elsewhere described as "the laver of regeneration;" but it is baptism inseparably linked with "the Word." What is the spiritual import of this baptism? It neither regenerates nor secures the remission of sins. It is true that it is called "the laver of regeneration" (Titus 3:5), and that remission of sins is connected with it. "Arise, be baptized, and wash away thy sins" (Acts 22:16). But no more is ascribed in Scripture to baptism than to the Word of God. Baptism cleanses from sin as the Word does. We are saved by the truth, begotten by the truth, sanctified by the truth. But this language does not imply that the Word regenerates every one who hears it, or that it possesses a magic power to work saving results. "Faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God" (Romans 10:17); but many who hear do not believe. Besides, salvation, as in the case of infants, is not linked inseparably with the Word. Historically, we know from the instances of baptism recorded in the New Testament that faith preceded baptism. Therefore baptism cannot regenerate. We believe, however, that baptism is both a sign and a seal of the covenant of grace, without believing that it has any regenerating, power m itself. The Lord connects the blessings of salvation with a believing reception of baptism, just as he does with a believing acceptance of the Word. For the apostle is here speaking of the effect of baptism on the Church, not upon those who are aliens from its blessings.
4. The design of the Lord in this purification of the Church. "That he might present it to himself a glorious Church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish."
(1) This refers evidently to the time of our Lord's second coming, when he is to be admired in all them that believe. It cannot refer to the Church in this world, which, even in its best states, has many a spot and many a wrinkle.
(2) It implies that the Lord will himself present his Church "as his purchased possession," and he and no other will receive the Church as his bride to himself.
(3) The condition of the Church will be One of spotless glory. She will have neither the spots of sin or error to mar her beauty nor the wrinkles of decay, but will be "holy and without blemish."
5. It was love that prompted and directed the whole process which is to have such a glorious result. "As Christ also loved the Church."
III. CHRIST AND THE CHURCH ARE ONE MEMBERSHIP. "For we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones" (Ephesians 5:30).
1. This does not refer to the incarnation, for the assumption of human nature allied our Savior to the whole race of man. This membership applies to believers only.
2. Neither does it refer, as Romanists say, to the Lord's Supper, in which, partaking of his flesh, we are flesh of his flesh.
3. It signifies community of life, like that which connected Eve in her creation with the flesh of Adam. We are elsewhere said to be saved by his flesh (Ephesians 2:15), by his blood (Ephesians 2:13), by his body (Romans 7:4), by the body of his flesh (Colossians 1:22); and his flesh is called our life, and described as essential to eternal life. "Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, ye have no life in you" (John 6:53, John 6:54). There is, no doubt, great mystery here, and therefore the relation between Christ and his Church may well be called so (Ephesians 5:32).—T.C.
HOMILIES BY R.M. EDGAR
The love and the wrath of God enforcing morality.
Paul is still working for the unity of the Church and calling for that watchful and pure walk on the part of the Ephesians which can alone promote it. He consequently brings to bear upon them the allied motives of the love and the wrath of God. And here we may remark, in passing, that the moralities which have tried to work themselves without the aid of Divine sanctions have proved practically powerless. No "independent morality" has as yet rendered any appreciable service to the world. We still need to be overshadowed by the Divine. Paul, moreover, begins with love, and then passes on to the fact of the Divine wrath. And—
I. THE LOVE OF GOD PATERNAL AND FRATERNAL SHOULD MOVE US TO MUTUAL LOVE.
(Verses 1, 2.) The Ephesians are exhorted to follow their Divine Father as dear children. The constant love of the heavenly Father lights all the children on their way and rebukes their want of love. The first motive in this section is, therefore, paternal love a call to children of God to be loving like their Father in heaven. But the second motive is from the fraternal love of Christ, which led him out of consideration for us to "give himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for an odor of a sweet smell" (Revised Version). The self-sacrifice of Christ, we are here taught, was a very precious offering in the Father's sight. In the cross the Father for the first time saw perfect obedience carried up to the point and in the article of death. While in one aspect Jesus realized the Father's wrath on the cross, because the Substitute for sinners, in another aspect he was contemplated by the Father with the utmost complacency. Self-sacrifice is fully appreciated by our Father in heaven. Now, if God regarded with infinite delight the self-sacrifice of the only begotten Son for the sake of his brethren, there is no way in which we can delight our Father so much as by following in the Elder Brother's footsteps and being ready to sacrifice ourselves out of love to the brethren. What a spirit this would infuse into our Church life! Harless notices that in this passage Christ is really represented as both Priest and Victim. In the same way we may delight the mind of God in being victims and priests in our loving relations to the brethren.
II. THE WRATH OF GOD IS A REALITY TOWARDS THE COVETOUS AND UNCLEAN.
(Verses 3-7.) The idea that God will not be angry with wicked men must be dismissed from all minds, Righteous indignation against certain forms of evil is an experience of a most imperative and holy character. We should lose our reverence for a God who did not become angry with sinners. It was the more needful to affirm this truth at Ephesus, since the deities of heathenism were supposed to be addicted to such crimes as uncleanness and covetousness. Olympus was filled, by the impure imaginations of men, with a set of men and women who were for the most part fit for penitentiaries and state prisons. Morality received no backing from the mythology. But the thought that a God so loving as our heavenly Father is wrathful with the covetous and the unclean, and allows his wrath to burn against them, is surely calculated to wean men from such sins. There seems to have been insinuations in Paul's time that the Divine wrath against impurity and covetousness was mythical, just as such insinuation prevails at present. But surely the frightful punishment which these sins entail in the order of nature speak to the spirit of man about the reality of the Divine wrath. Not all the ameliorations of science can bring it about that men can so sin with impunity; the unclean are cursed in the very nature of things with a grievous curse, and the covetous suffer of necessity in their pinched and miserly souls. God is an angry God against those who love sin, and our only course is to forsake it. Hapless and Olshausen believe the word here rendered "covetousness" to mean in this connection "intemperance," the desire, not for gold, but for fleshly gratification—the making a god of the belly, and so an idolatry. Of course, if this sense be taken of πλεονεξία, it agrees better with the context and makes more emphatic Paul's appeal for purity. Do we make as much in these days of the Divine wrath as we should? As the love-pain of God, as one writer has called it, it is surely well fitted to enforce morality.
III. PAUL FURTHER SHOWS THAT THE DEEDS OF DARKNESS ARE UNFRUITFUL. (Verses 8-11.) He tells the Ephesians they were once in darkness, and did these deeds of darkness. But they have come into the light which is shed upon our path by our radiant Lord. They must walk, consequently as children of the light, remembering that the fruit of the light (so Revised Version) is in all goodness and righteousness and truth. Thus they would prove what is well-pleasing unto the Lord. In so doing they would have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but would rather reprove them. Now, in arguing that the works of darkness are "unfruitful," Paul is advocating morality on the ground of expediency. He has already applied the Divine sanctions, but he does not hesitate to back these up by showing that what God wills is good. Natural law endorses the Divine precepts. But this is quite distinct from the position that the natural law can secure obedience when it stands alone. All experience disproves this. Utilitarianism is not a sufficiently broad basis for a sound morality. But the expediency of moral rectitude is an important argument in its favor. Sooner or later a man who commits deeds of darkness finds he has made a mistake.
IV. BUT IT IS A PURE LIFE WHICH WILL REALLY REPROVE THEM.
(Verses 12-14.) It is thought sometimes by superficial people that accurate descriptions of the deeds of darkness will do something to disgust people with them. But this is Satan advising man again to become wiser by eating forbidden fruit. Paul's opinion is that it is a shame to speak and therefore to think of what is done by the sinful in secret. All the prurient curiosity which feasts itself like flies on foul corruption is of the devil The true plan, therefore, is not to mention such matters. Let them be buried in oblivion, but let Christians awake from all lethargic slumber, and arise from the corruption of spiritual death, and in the light of Christ live purely. Thus shall the deeds of darkness be reproved. All that we have to do then is to carry in the light, and the darkness and its deeds will stand convicted before us. The Ephesians are to indulge in no scandalous conversation under the pretence of defeating the doers of the dark deeds; but they are to walk in the light of Christ and be pure, and lo! the sinners shall hide themselves before them.
V. TIME MAY BE REDEEMED BY HOLY LIVING.
(Verses 15, 16.) There has been some discussion as to the exact meaning of "time" in this passage. Hapless is clearly of opinion—in which, as in most matters, he is followed by his French disciple, M. Monod—that "opportunity" (der rechte Zeitpunkt) best expresses τὸν καιρόν. Paul is consequently anxious that in evil days, such as those upon which the Ephesians have fallen, they should be watchful and wise enough to "buy up eagerly their opportunity," and do the best they can for their age. This is by holy living. There is no other way of understanding the times and fulfilling our course in them. It will thus be seen that Paul appeals to the Ephesians, by both the love and wrath of God, by the expediency and power of a pure life, to walk worthy of their high calling. In this way he expects to enlist them in the great army of united and brotherly souls who are gathering round Jesus our King and Head. May we all respond to his appeal! £—R.M.E.
Inspiration, spirituous and spiritual.
Following up his exhortations about holy living, Paul now proceeds to the subject of understanding the Lord's will. In doing so he comes across the necessity which human nature feels for excitement of some kind, and, warning the Ephesians against the low excitement of wine, he commends the high excitement of the Spirit, with all its pleasurable manifestations. In other words, he speaks of inspiration, but condemns the spirituous while he commends the spiritual. We have thus suggested—
I. THE NEED OF SOME STIMULUS FROM BEYOND OURSELVES.
(Verses 17, 18.) This is apparent from the fact that every one needs some excitement, as it is called, to keep him moving—something to "interrupt our quiet and ordinary state of mind with some more lively feeling, which makes us live more consciously and in a manner quicker than we do in common." We all feel this. Now, this goes to show that we are not self-contained, no matter how much we desire to be so, but need a helping hand from without our personalities. Withhold food, and we perish. Withhold all stimulus from us, and we go of necessity to pieces. The whole question comes to be, therefore, where we shall get our required stimulus.
II. THE STIMULUS OF WINE IS ATTENDED WITH DANGER.
(Verse 18.) This is an inspiration which comes through sense. Now, all of us need a stimulus through our senses. Food is such a stimulus. A well-digested meal makes life move faster and quicker than fasting would. But the vinous inspiration leads to "riot" (Revised Version), and is inconsistent with that unity of the Church for which the gospel calls. We should abstain from such a dangerous stimulus as this, for its effect has been hostile to unity of spirit. But we might extend the precaution here to all those excitements of a sensual nature which exhaust and retard the spirit. As Robertson says, "Wine is but a specimen of a class of stimulants. All that begins from without belongs to the same class. The stimulus may be afforded by almost any enjoyment of the senses. Drunkenness may come from anything wherein is excess—from over-indulgence in society, in pleasure, in music, and in the delight of listening to oratory, nay, even from the excitement of sermons and religious meetings. The prophet tells us of those who are drunken, and not with wine." Arnold, in the same way, bases upon this passage warnings against excess of bodily exercise, excess of intellectual exercise, excess even in our hours of work, excess, in a word, so far as it militates against Christian sober-mindedness.
III. THE INSPIRATION FROM ABOVE CAN HAVE NO ATTENDANT EXCESS.
(Verses 18, 19.) We may be filled with the Spirit, and no riot result, nothing which will do anything but foster the glorious unity. For, as Arnold shows, the gospel and the inspirations from God "at once excite and soothe," so that the soul is kept in holy equilibrium, and the inspiration has its natural manifestation.
1. There will be harmony in social song. Poetry and music will become tributary to unity of spirit. The Holy Ghost will permeate by his harmonizing presence social praise.
2. The praise offered to the Lord will be heartfelt. It will not be a form of praise, but the very heart going up to heaven.
3. Thanksgiving will be mightily promoted. In the midst of manifold mercies our God in heaven looks for constant thankfulness from us. And, indeed, if we understand his love we shall be prompted to give thanks "always for all things," in the Name of our Lord Jesus Christ.
4. And inspiration will promote mutual subjection in the fear of Christ (so Revised Version). Thus it comes to pass that an inspired people proves a praising and united people. What harmony the society filled with the Spirit realizes! It is heaven begun below. What we need, therefore, is a Pentecost. If the Holy Spirit is pleased to fill us, then shall our discords vanish and our hearts beat in unison. It is by inspiration that the unity of the Church shall be secured.—R.M.E.
What husbands and wives owe to Christ.
In exhorting the Ephesians to purity and enthusiasm of life, Paul is naturally led to the family institution and the relations to be found there. In the heathen world the relations between men and women were degrading. As Pressense says, in his most suggestive book, 'La Famille Chretienne,' "One found in the pagan family neither purity nor love. At the moment when Jesus Christ came, it had reached the last degree of degradation, and one can apply to the family itself those words of the Gospel, 'He has come to seek and to save that which was lost.'" In this passage of Ephesians we have an insight into what Christ has done for the family. He has made of marriage the choice symbol of his own relation to the Church, and so family life is lifted into a Divine and spiritual light. The consideration of Christ for his people regulates the consideration husband should show to wife; and the loyalty of Christ's people to their Master indicates the loyalty the wife should show the husband. Husbands and wives thus owe to Christ the purification of their relations and the sanctification of the home!
I. JESUS LEFT HIS HEAVENLY HOME TO BE UNITED TO HIS BRIDE, THE CHURCH.
(Verse 31.) It is evident that the parallel between the son leaving father and mother that he may cleave unto his wife, and Jesus leaving the bosom of the Father to be united to the bride, the Church, is what is in the apostle's mind. He says that he speaks of Christ and the Church (verse 32). And in no more beautiful way can the self-denial of Jesus in leaving heaven be presented. Heaven had been from all eternity the happy home of the only begotten Son. He had lain in the Father's bosom and enjoyed ineffable bliss. But thoughts of marriage came, and the Father favored the Son's idea. The morning dawned when Jesus must leave the homestead, and go forth to win his bride. Angels may well have wondered at the step and doubted its wisdom. But the step is taken. The home is left, and never again can it be what it once was. It is to be tenanted in due time with a bride, the Lamb's wife, composed of a multitude that no man can number, happy souls, each and all in deepest unity with the Son. We do not sufficiently appreciate the magnificent design of God in the marriage of his only Son, or the condescension of the Son in forming such an alliance as he has done. For no condescension in earthly marriages can more than feebly illustrate the condescension of the Divine Son in taking a human bride. Princes may marry paupers, but the difference between poverty and princely wealth is as nothing compared with the difference between human nature and what is Divine. But besides, the human nature was not pure upon which he set his love; it was sinful, lost, ruined. Imagine a prince, out of pure as distinguished from passionate love, singling out some poor, abandoned woman, and arranging for her education and health and elevation in thought and feeling, until at last he can fairly marry her and give her share of his glories and his home;—this is but a faint image of what Jesus the Son of God has done in selecting as a bride the ruined human race. He determined to win his bride, and so he took sinless human nature on him, and arranged for the union of once sinful, but through grace sanctified, human nature with himself.
II. THE CARE OF JESUS FOR THE CHURCH IS THE IDEAL AT WHICH HUSBANDS SHOULD AIM IN CARING FOR THEIR WIVES. (Verses 25-33.) This is Paul's idea in this whole passage. Let us notice the order of the thought.
1. Christ loved the Church. This sovereign and yet most unselfish love led to the whole history of Christ's devotion. His great heart recognized the possibilities of love when manifested to lost souls, and determined to realize them.
2. He gave himself for it. Here was heroic love. In the nature of things husbands cannot give themselves to death for their wives and afterwards enjoy their confidence. But Christ was able to give himself for the Church and then to enter into union with it. But it surely shows that a husband who truly loves his wife should be ready to die for her.
3. His self-sacrifice was to secure the Church's sanctification. The Church was naturally polluted, sinful, degraded; but the whole history of Christ's devotion goes to show that he had our sanctification in view. While setting his love on sinful souls, he hated our sin, and provided blood to cleanse our sin away. And the sanctification Christ secures for his bride is to be perfect. She is to be without "spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing;" she is to be "holy and without blemish." In other words, the sanctification is to be thorough. And is this not to show that husbands who are true to their wives should keep their sanctification steady as a star before them? If a husband does all in his power to promote his wife's holiness, she can never be the victim of any unholy lust, but sanctification will characterize every relation.
4. The love thus lavished on the wife is the love of a man's "better self." To encourage this gallant and holy devotion to women, Paul further shows the compensation. The husband and wife are one, just as Christ and the Church are one. In loving his wife a man is really loving himself. It is self-love as distinguished from selfishness. It is the love of a man's "better self." A man is not expected to hate his own flesh, but to nourish and cherish it; self-preservation dictates such a course; in the same way husbands should love their wives, cherishing them as really their "better halves," or rather, "better selves," and feeling assured that a man's real interests all lie in the direction of tender consideration towards his wife. It thus appears that Jesus has furnished the true ideal of devotion. We go not to belted knights or tales of chivalry for our ideas about devotion to our wives, but to the foot of the cross, that we may see in Jesus our perfect Example!
III. THE CHURCH'S REVERENTIAL LOVE TO CHRIST IS THE IDEAL OF WIFELY DEVOTING.
(Verses 22-25.) If Paul would summon husbands up to the heights of consecration by the example of Christ, he would also summon wives up to a corresponding return of reverential devotion. The Church, in her love and obedience to Christ, is the pattern of wifely devotion. Now, this leads us to consider how Christ rules in his Church. It is not an inconsiderate despotism, but an intelligent, considerate rule of love. His wishes are expressed with infinite tenderness. There is no fury in his commandments. The Church feels and finds that they are not grievous. And so believers are loyal to the Lord from the heart. Nothing is so delightful as to obey him. Suppose, then, that such a spirit characterized the wife's relations to her husband; that she saw in his every expressed wish the outcome of love, and obeyed him in the belief that obedience was her privilege as well as duty,—what Edenic homes men and women would possess on earth! And here it may be well to notice a fact brought out in Pressense's volume already referred to, and it is this, that the New Testament has evidently entered into many more details about the family than about the constitution of the Church. The reason is obvious. The battle of the faith is to be won through the family. The family is God's unit. The Church is but a family enlarged; heaven, again, is only a family still more enlarged. God as a Father overshadows all! If Christianity ensures a holy family; if she wins families from worldiness to holiness of life;—then she may indeed lift up her head assured that redemption is drawing nigh. Christian homes on earth, paradise restored,—these are really the creations which we look for; and beyond the shadows a still statelier home arises in "the Father's house with its many mansions" prepared for the reception of the bride. The family on earth is sanctified that the family in heaven may be prepared for; the heavenly home is but the perfection of the earthly, if this is Christian to its core.—R.M.E.
HOMILIES BY R. FINLAYSON
What to imitate and to avoid.
I. THE IMITATION OF GOD AND CHRIST.
1. The imitation of God. "Be ye therefore imitators of God, as beloved children." The force of example is abundantly acknowledged. How much do most of us suffer from the low standard of opinion and practice with which we are surrounded? On the other hand, we have all felt what it is to come into Contact with one who is raised above the common standard. By his strength of principle and generous sentiments and noble endeavors be kindles our aspiration. We should like to be what he is. The wonderful thing here is that God places us (which is of far greater consequence) under the influence of his own example. This is the only place in which we are distinctly called to imitate God. But the same truth is given expression to by Christ when he says, "That ye may be the sons of your Father which is in heaven, for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sendeth rain on the just and the unjust. Ye therefore shall be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect." Paul has just exhorted us to imitate God in his forgivingness. This imitation of God proceeds on what was referred to before—our being made after the Divine image. It proceeds on what is referred to here—God being our Father, and as such communicating a kindred nature to us. But for this kindred nature with God we should have no more conception of him than the brutes have. "The idea of God, sublime and awful as it is, is the idea of our own spiritual nature purified and enlarged to infinity. The infinite Light would be forever hidden from us, did not kindred rays dawn and brighten within us." It belongs to the dignity of our nature (our being partakers of the Divine nature) that there can be proposed to us as our end likeness to God. It is designed that there should be a perpetual unfolding and enlarging of our spiritual powers and excellences. All our desires, hopes, efforts, are to be toward this. We are to be filled with the Divine thoughts, replenished with the Divine energy, wanned with the Divine love. As a child catches the very tone of his father, so are we to catch the tone of our heavenly Father. There is a reason given for our being eager to imitate God. We are his beloved children. Oh, the love bestowed on us! Sonship forfeited and then restored. What a contradiction, to be children peculiarly loved and not to seek likeness to God! But this leads on to the other thought.
2. The imitation of God is also the imitation of Christ. "And walk in love, even as Christ also loved you, and gave himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for an odor of a sweet smell." Christ is presented for imitation in his love. We are not to understand that love was an attribute more distinctive of Christ than of God. For love is the greatest attribute of God. But we are to understand that Christ was especially the manifestation of the love of God. In Christ's love we see what God's love is. And to imitate Christ in his love is the best way to imitate God. And how does love manifest itself? Selfishness manifests itself in isolation. Love, on the other hand, manifests itself in approachableness. And this was the form which Christ's love took. He loved us so much as to come within human conditions—to become one of ourselves. And that (wonderful as it is) was not the extent of his approach to us. For, coming into our nature, he next threw himself into our position, he became our Representative. And he presented before God for us the offering of a perfect life. He especially, in his death, presented the sacrifice which had full atoning virtue for our sin. And this presentation of himself as an offering and a sacrifice to God (with the love that prompted it) was for an odor of a sweet smell. More grateful than to the sense of smell was the incense that the High Priest took with him into the holy of holies was to the heart of God the incense from his life and sacrifice which Christ took with him into heaven. It is an incense which continually rises before God with acceptance. The love which prompted to this and carried it out to completion is here proposed for our imitation. But how need we think of copying such a pattern? As well set down a child to copy a masterpiece of a Raphael or an Angelo? But let us take these things into consideration.
(1) He has made provision for our imitating him. We are to be thankful to God, that, amid many bad examples and imperfect examples of good men, he has given us one perfectly good example. He has shown us that a life of the highest unselfishness is not impracticable in our humanity. If that had been all, the effect would only have been to fill us with despair. But the apostle does not encourage us to imitate Christ without pointing to his sacrifice of atonement. His atonement having been accepted for us, his perfect life has been accepted too, as that which with assisting grace we may now hopefully strive after.
(2) Compared with the example of God, the example of Christ is more circumstantial. We know that God is love, but in Christ we see, under many conditions, how love operates. There is much detail upon which we can dwell and from which we can obtain help as to the details of our life.
(3) It is an example easily followed from its familiarity. It was a perfect example; but not in the way of being apart from us, but rather in the way of being so close to us as to be easily understood. It was the time—
"When truth, embodied in a tale,
Did enter in at lowly doors."
(4) It was an example accompanied with the strongest incentive to imitation. It was not merely that he taught us the reasonableness of a good ire, and exemplified it; but he placed us under infinite obligation in dying for us, and then, having obtained this immense advantage, he comes forward and asks us to imitate him.
(5) We are to imitate him in his love by walking in love as he did. This does not imply any unnatural straining; but, in the ordinary walks of life, we may find sufficient sphere for the exercise and growth of love. We are specially to imitate Christ in the missionary character of his love. We are to feel for sinners as in need of salvation. And we are to sacrifice much in order that those ends for which he died, and on which his heart is set, may be furthered. Let us, then, choose Christ as our Pattern with the whole energy of our wills. And let us follow him, not as perhaps we may have done, with a faint and yielding purpose, but in the full conviction that in following him we shall best imitate God.
II. THINGS TO BE CONDEMNED.
1. The things that are not to be named. "But fornication, and all uncleanness, or covetousness, let it not even be named among you, as becometh saints." The apostle points here to a fact which is sometimes forgotten, that there is a sphere of that which is not to be named. There are, for instance, books written, in which blasphemous things are said against the Savior. There is this reason for not reading these books or not repeating blasphemous expressions contained in them, that they stick to and pollute the imagination. So the apostle teaches that saints are to be so cultivated in their sensibilities, to have such a delicacy of feeling, that they will not talk about or hint at things connected with fornication and uncleanness. To take to them in conversation indicates a coarseness of mind, a polluted state of the imagination. That is the proper circle, whether family, or Church, or neighborhood, from which the very name of such things is banished. We are surprised that covetousness is classed as it is here among the things which are not to be named. It is a sin about which strange things are said in the New Testament. It is said that the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. The apostle teaches here that saints are to have such sensitiveness as to be repelled from the very mention of covetousness, as that which would pollute their lips. Think of a community educated up to that state of refinement.
2. The things which are not befitting. "Nor filthiness nor foolish talking, or jesting, which are not befitting: but rather giving of thanks." There are things, the apostle teaches, which are to be condemned on the lower ground of their being improper, or conducing to no good end. By the first mentioned we are to understand, especially, that which is foul in speech. If we distinguish foolish talking from other faults of speech which are mentioned in this Epistle, we must limit it to what is senseless in speech. Fools have a way of talking in wanton disregard of what is rational, as though their rational powers were given them to be played with. The word translated "jesting" is sometimes used in a good sense. And Barrow has shown that there is a wit which is not to be condemned, but which is fitted to minister harmless delight to conversation, to expose things base and vile to due contempt, to reprove some vices and reclaim some persons, to confute errors that do not deserve solid confutation, to repel unjust reproach and obloquy, and to counterbalance the improper use of it. "It is bad objects or bad adjuncts, which do spoil its indifference and innocence: it is the abuse thereof to which (as all pleasant things are dangerous, and apt to degenerate into baits of intemperance and excess) it is very liable, that corrupteth it, and seemeth to be the ground why in so general terms it is prohibited by the apostle." "All profane jesting, all speaking loosely and wantonly about holy things, making such things the matter of sport and mockery, playing and trifling with them, is certainly prohibited as an intolerably vain and wicked practice." "All injurious, abusive, scurrilous jesting, which causeth or needlessly tendeth to the disgrace, damage, vexation, or prejudice in any kind of our neighbor, is also prohibited." "There are some times and circumstances of things wherein it concerneth and becometh men to be serious in mind, grave in demeanor, and plain in discourse." To what the apostle condemns as not befitting he opposes giving of thanks. There is a fitness in thanksgiving at all times ("giving thanks always," as it is said in the twentieth verse); but we are to understand that there is a singular fitness in the present connection. Thanks- giving is speech put to the best use (implying both seriousness and joyfulness). Let there be that, the apostle would say, and it will rectify and hallow all speech.
3. The things which are not safe. "For this ye know of a surety, that no fornicator, nor unclean person, nor covetous man, which is an idolater, hath any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God." The apostle is confident, as declaring what was attested by their own consciousness or practical acquaintance with the kingdom. It is the kingdom, not only of God, but of Christ and God, that is to say, a kingdom peculiarly associated with the cross of Christ, in which God shows his deep detestation of sin by punishing it in his Son. A kingdom that is ruled over by One who shed his blood that sin might be done away, cannot receive into it those who sin and do not mean to give up their sins. By their very antagonism to the whole spirit, law, ends, of the kingdom, they shut the door against themselves. We are surprised again that the covetous man appears in such company, and further here that he is singled out for special remark. "Nor covetous man, which is an idolater." There is idolatry in the other sins, that is, sensual pleasure is put in the place of God. And that may be the light in which the apostle views the devotees of pleasure as shut out from inheritance in the kingdom. But the covetous man is put forward as being an idolater by pre-eminence. Christ had already said, "Ye cannot serve God and mammon." The covetous man is not he who values money and seeks to serve God therewith. But, according to the thought here, he is one who idolizes money, values it in itself and not for God's ends, sets his affections on it, trusts in it; and, such being his relation to it, then it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for him to enter into the kingdom of God. It is true of the covetous man, as it is not true of the others, that he can go on in his sin without incurring the opprobrium of men, and (partly from the difficulty of drawing the exact line between the right and the wrong love of gain) without suspecting himself that it is getting a hold upon him, and thus (without such checks as the others have) getting hardened in his sin, we can understand how he should be called by pre-eminence the idolater. Warning. "Let no man deceive you with empty words: for because of these things cometh the wrath of God upon the sons of disobedience. Be not ye therefore partakers with them." It would seem that there were apologists for vice, who, by their representations, tried to entice the Ephesian Christians back to Gentile ways. One of their representations was that, besides being pleasant, it was safe to do these things. So apologists for vice are ready to say this and many other things still. But "let no man deceive you with empty words." Such words have not as their contents eternal truth. "For because of these things cometh the wrath of God upon the sons of disobedience." The sons of disobedience are those who (in their love for sin) disobey the gospel of Christ, by which alone there is deliverance from wrath. Refusing God's mercy, how can they escape God's wrath? They are not only lying under ordinary judgments or condemnation now, but they have yet to be dealt with for these very sins. "After their hardness and impenitent hearts they are treasuring up for themselves wrath in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God." It is for those, then, who regard their safety (to bring in no higher consideration), whatever apologists may say, to refuse to be partakers with the disobedient.
4. The things that are dark.
(1) They are in their walk to be separate from their former state. "Ye were once darkness, but are now light in the Lord: walk as children of light." They had been brought up in heathen darkness. It was that in which they lived and moved and had their being. And so, by appropriation, it was more or less embedded in their nature. But now, living and moving and having their being in the Lord, that is, in light (as contrasted with heathen darkness), and being enlightened by him through his gospel and Spirit, they were light. And such being their state, there was a call to walk as children of light. We are to walk under the incitement of the glorious fruit of Christian illumination. "For the fruit of the light is in all goodness and righteousness and truth." The philosophic triad is the true, the good, and the beautiful. The Christian triad as given here, and with which we ought to be familiar, is the good, the right, and the true. The good, or excellence of the heart, comes first; for that is first in God. Then follows the right, or regard to conscience, to eternal principle. And, lastly, there is the true, or regard to reality, not only in fact, but in thought (including the perfect in form). We are good in cherishing a spirit of love; we are righteous in doing our duty; we are true in conforming to Divine forms of thought, Having these three in us, then it may be said that the beauty of the Lord our God is upon us. We are to walk in the way of proving what is well-pleasing to Christ. "Proving what is well-pleasing unto the Lord." It is not what the apologists for vice say; it is what Christ says. It is that which is to be tested. It is implied that we have the means of testing all things in this light. There are many things which, put to the test by us, we must reject. They are revealed in our Christian consciousness as wrong. There are other things which we see to be good, not merely in the convincing light of truth, but in our own blessed experience in the doing of them we feel that we have the approval of the Master, we can even now hear his words, "Well done, good and faithful servant." Our position, then, must be separation from darkness. "And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness." The fruit of light is one, a glorious indivisible cluster. The works of darkness are many. The fruit of light is fitted to incite us. The works of darkness should deter us. They are unfruitful. They yield nothing that is worthy of the name of fruit, but only shame and death.
(2) They are to take an aggressive position toward darkness. "But rather even reprove them." They were not to pass them over in silence or find excuses for them, but to hold them up to reprobation to the doers of them. As darkness was aggressive toward them, so were they as light (even for their own safety) to be aggressive toward the darkness. They were to lift up the Gentiles to their own position. It is added, as showing the clamant need for reproof, "For the things which are done by them in secret it is a shame even to speak of." It is added further, as showing the use or end of reproof, "But all things when they are reproved are made manifest by the light." "All those secret sins are laid hare in their real moral character, unveiled and brought into distinctness before the moral consciousness, by the light of Christian truth, which is at work in your reproof; by the light, I say, it is made manifest—for, it is added, 'everything that is made manifest is light,' has ceased thereby to have the nature of darkness, and is now of the essence of light." And thus, whether there was amendment or not, they would be making an inroad on the territory of darkness, making dark deeds stand out in the light.
(3) They are to take this aggressive position in consistency with the awakening call of God. "Wherefore he saith, Awake, thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall shine upon thee." The words are from Isaiah 60:1, Isaiah 60:2, and receive from the apostle a Christian adaptation.
(a) It is a call to the child of darkness. He is described as sleeping and dead, that is, in sin. He is insensible to the infinite importance of spiritual and eternal things.
(b) It is a call to awake and arise. "Awake, thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead." He does not let the child of the night alone. He comes to the sleeper and bids him awake, to the dead and bids him arise. And in his very summons there is an awakening, quickening power.
(c) It is a call to which a promise is attached. "And Christ shall shine upon thee." As if it were said, "The sun is already up, and will pour his enlightening rays upon thee." So while we are sleeping and dead in our sin, it is true that the Sun of righteousness is up shining upon this world of ours, and we must up and catch his rays. Other men are up and doing their work under the light of this Sun; why should we be asleep and dead in sin?—R.F.
Exhortation to exercise wisdom in regard to our manner of walk.
"Look therefore carefully how ye walk, not as unwise, but as wise." The object to which we are to look is this—how we walk; in other words, the conduct of our life. In regard to this we are to be careful. At cross-roads there are sometimes finger-posts put up to indicate where the different roads lead to, that travelers may be at no loss. By looking carefully at these, they may save themselves much trouble and delay. So it becomes every traveler to eternity to know the road that he is taking, whether it is the narrow or the broad. There are finger-posts put up by God (in the Word) by which we may ascertain this and put ourselves right if we have to our grief taken the wrong road. But, seeing many do not make use of these finger-posts (do not look at them at all, or only carelessly, and thus exhibit great folly), the exhortation takes the negative as well as the positive form. "Not as unwise, but as wise." The word translated "carefully" may also be translated "precisely," and suggests this, that we are not only to look to the general correctness of our conduct, but to look to it down to the smallest details. It is only by thus going carefully over it in detail, with no foregone conclusion in our mind, but earnestly seeking God to search us and to discover to us what can be altered for the better, that we may be able to bring it out into some beauty of conception as a whole. There are two things in regard to which we are to exercise wisdom.
I. TIME. "Redeeming the time, because the days are evil." The right management of our time is what we are particularly to look to. The exhortation is to redeem the time, that is, the time meted out to us on earth, in which to fulfill the Divine purposes. Literally, as given in the margin, we are to buy up the opportunity. The idea is that every moment has its own duty assigned to it. By doing the duty in the moment, we make a purchase of the opportunity, we turn it into a gain. We keep abreast of time; we avoid subsequent collision of duties. Whereas by not doing the duty in the moment, we contract debt, we fall behind. Instead of being the free owners of our time, we become slavish debtors to it. We are to be like merchants that seize every vantage that is going. Merchants, that travel about from place to place, do not get a vantage at every turn. They must lay their account by an amount of fruitless toil. But as heavenly merchants, we are in this enviable position, that every moment comes laden with golden opportunity. And we are to make our moments as they pass rich in all the gains of a good life.
1. Good planning. If we would redeem the time in its days, then we must anticipate them by wise economical arrangements. We must see them coming, and know how (God willing) we are to fill them up. The light that we have got from past days we are to put into some workable scheme for the days to come. To the excellence of a day-plan it is essential that we rightly proportion between the various duties of life (so that none are left out or do not get their proper place). We are to keep up the right proportion between our severer and our lighter engagements. It behooves every one to have a task, a definite task, a task that taxes his energies. And if he does not have it by necessity of procuring his daily bread, yet should he have it by necessity of steadying himself. But it is not good for the bow to be always bent, and, if we manage well, we shall find time (and find it good for the doing of our task too) to relax ourselves in social enjoyment. We are also to keep up the right proportion between our religious and our secular duties. The latter, as a general arrangement, must take up a large proportion of our time. Six to one is the proportion indicated in the command. But in every well-planned life there will be found ample time for religious duties. Every day is to begin with an acknowledgment of God. It may seem utopian to expect morning devotions of one who has to be at his work at six o'clock. And yet it only requires a little taken off sleep or off the previous evening to secure the necessary time for God. And surely that is not too much to expect of any Christian in the interest of a well-ordered life. Morning devotions alone will not make the day good. Only when these have been conscientiously engaged in there will be felt to be an obligation to make the day's work harmonize with them. The evening may be utilized for self-improvement and ministries to others. And the day is to end, as it began, with God. It is only by such planning (in the name of him who is not the author of confusion), that we can expect to be like merchants accumulating a large fortune.
2. Good planning followed up by decisiveness in execution. There is a reason given for redeeming the time: "Because the days are evil." The very earth has taken a complexion from the degeneracy of the dwellers on it. And so our days are evil, and not such as they would have been under normal conditions.
(1) The days are evil because many of them are lost already. We have known the degeneracy of the days in our own experience. We have lost many a good opportunity. This thought should act as a powerful stimulus to us. The apostle gives revenge as the last and crowning fruit of a godly sorrow. "Yea, what revenge!" he says. We are to take revenge upon ourselves that we have given so much of our valuable strength and time to our adversary. The workman knows what it is to make up lost time. When he falls behind with his tale of work, he has to work longer hours or to apply himself with double energy when he is at it. So, because our days have been ill spent in the past (before conversion and after conversion too) are we to work with redoubled energy in the future.
(2) The days are evil because of the many temptations they bring. In our calm moments (sorrowful for the past) we think of spending our time in a certain way that seems good to us. But circumstances are not altogether with us. In a world where evil has obtained such a hold we must lay our account to our being solicited from without more or less urgently to depart from our plan. And what makes the solicitation much to be feared is that we are enfeebled from our past. If we had conquered obstacles as we went along, we should have been in a freer, stronger position today. But we have to drag our antecedents with us, like an old debt. We have undigested time, lying like a burden on our present energies. And though, with repentance and forgiveness, there is a sense of freedom and hope imparted to us, yet there is that which is to be conquered in evil habit. The only way of conquest is to deal rigorously with all interruptions of duty, as they arise, as those who would see the time redeemed, and not its losses added to.
(3) The days are evil because they are few. We have time to make up (in the face of great temptations), and little time to make it up in. Had we a thousand years to live, the case would be altered. That would be a comparatively long period in which to make up what we had lost in thirty or fifty or seventy years. But when the days are evil in this sense, that we cannot calculate on a single day as ours, there is surely urgent reason for making up our losses without delay. Were all the interests of life crowded into one moment, were we told that upon the use we made of that moment depended our future happiness or misery,—how urgently should we be called upon to use it aright! What is actually the arrangement differs little from that. We really live on from moment to moment, not knowing which is to be our last. How wise, then, to seek to make out of every passing moment eternal gain! Inference in which there is a recurrence to the general exhortation and a transition to the second particular. "Wherefore be ye not foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is." The teaching here is that Christ is Lord of our time. He has the sovereign appointment of the time of our coming here and the time of our going hence. All our undertakings are conditioned by this: "If the Lord will." He has sovereign rights over our time. To him we owe the firstfruits of our time, as we owe the firstfruits of our substance. From Christ we get the whole plan of our life. The right management of our time, then, is to understand what the will of the Lord is, what Christ would have us to do. Seeking Christ's mind as to the employment of our time, we may expect that we shall obtain from him the strength necessary to conquer all the obstacles of our time, and to do the work of each day in its day, according as the duty of the day requires.
1. Dissuasive from false excitement. "And be not drunken with wine, wherein is riot." It is evident from the language which is here employed that the wine drunk in those times was intoxicating. The apostolic advice must be regarded as even more applicable to drinks of stronger intoxicating qualities, which are manufactured now. It has its application to the intoxicating cup of the world in every form—to the intoxication of novel-reading, to the intoxication of keenness in business, to the intoxication of political excitement. This advice is not inaptly connected with the previous advice as to the right management of time. For it is when time is not properly filled up, when it is insipid, monotonous, or when it is filled up with wrong-doing, that there is the temptation to go after some form or other of earthly excitement. It cannot be said that the use of wine at all is forbidden by this precept. But there is certainly sounded in connection with it the note of alarm. There is put up beside it the red flag of danger. "Be not drunken with wine." Drunkenness is the feverish desire, the morbid craving, for drink. The man with his noble powers becomes one huge, ever-seeking, never-satisfied appetite. It is a vice into which all classes are in danger of falling. If the idle take to drinking to relieve the tedium of existence, the overwrought take to it to make up exhausted strength. The young take to it from a love of excitement, and the aged and debilitated take to it to get new tone to their system. Men of a coarse nature take to it because they are incapable of higher pleasures, and men of fine sensibility take to it because it is a source of inspiration to the intellect. Men of social tendencies take to it because it helps good fellowship; and the saddest thing is that women take to it in private, because of a peculiarly sensitive frame and inequalities of feeling. It is a vice, then, which must be said to be of a peculiarly fascinating, dangerous nature. And let no one think that he is out of danger. Many of those who have fallen were not like failing at first. They did not take drink at all for a time, and their friends had hope in them that they would prove temperate men. And when (with other social surroundings in some cases) they began to make any use of it, they seemed to be taking it in a perfectly innocent or needful way, until the liking was formed, and they could not do without a certain and an increasing amount of drink. Now, let it be observed on what ground the apostle condemns drunkenness. It is in the line of his thought that we are to exercise wisdom as to our manner of walk. Wherein, he says, is riot. Drunkenness is a madness. There is a form of it to which this description is specially applicable, that which is known as delirium tremens. But even in its ordinary working it has a close resemblance to madness. It takes away from men the guiding power of reason, their self-possession, their self-restraint, and leads them to make such exhibitions of themselves as in their calm moments they would be ashamed of. "Riot," which is the word employed in the Revised translation, is defined by Johnson to be "wild and loose festivity."
"When his headstrong riot hath no curb,
When rage and hot blood are his counselors,
When means and lavish manners meet together."
(1) The word "riot" points to the prodigal manner of the drunkard. The drunkard is prodigal of his means.
"So senseless of expense
That he will know neither how to maintain it
Nor cease his flow of riot."
He spends on self-indulgence what, if saved, would not only increase the comfort of his home, but would do much good besides. The drunkard is prodigal of his time, and thus violates the previous precept. The golden opportunity, which he might employ for informing his mind or instructing his children, he wastes in the public-house. The drunkard is prodigal of the stuff of which his frame is made. He wastes his physical powers, takes away his clearness of head, his steadiness of hand, and his general vigor, induces disease and premature death (again violating the previous precept in throwing away years that in the paths of temperance would have been his). The drunkard is prodigal of his worth to his fellows, as the temperate man is preservative in this respect. When the Indian general saw disaster waiting on his country's arms, because, alas! in an emergency his regiments were found besotted with drink, "Call out Havelock's saints!" he exclaimed; "they are never drunk, and Havelock is always ready." The drunkard is prodigal of his better feelings. He deadens his home feelings. He does not value the society of his wife and children; he does not study their happiness; nay, he can see them want in order that he may be gratified. He deadens his spiritual sensibilities. And to his wife the most dreadful thought may be, not that she is set aside or the children neglected, but that for his idol he is casting off his God.
(2) The word "riot" points to the noisy manner of the drunkard. Men under excitement are naturally demonstrative, and the drunkard is peculiarly noisy (and in that senseless) in his demonstrations. There is the noise of drunken laughter. "As the crackling of thorns under a pot, so ['empty and short-lived'] is the laughter of the fool." There is the noise of drunken songs. There is the song (of its own kind), which goes along with the drinking of wine (Isaiah 24:8). In the convivial song men tell each other vociferously of their freedom from care, of their good-heartedness; or they may go to the lower depth of the indelicate and the profane. But how all such hilarity is out of place! "I will turn," it is said in the Prophet Amos, "your feasts into mourning, and all your songs into lamentation." And there is the echo of this in James: "Be afflicted and mourn and weep, let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to heaviness." There is the noise of drunken brawls. There is often, under the excitement of strong drink, a combativeness in words and a combativeness in acts. "Who hath contentions? who hath babbling? who hath wounds without cause? They that tarry long at the wine." It cannot be said that the apostle gives a decision in favor of total abstinence. He nowhere counsels total abstinence as a duty in itself or in relation to his times. At the same time, he gives no decision adverse to total abstinence. And we know that elsewhere he lays down a principle of expediency which, under certain conditions, makes total abstinence a Christian duty. Many good people think that these conditions exist in our country at the present time. They feel that the evil of intemperance has risen to such a height as to be a national vice (threatening our very position as a nation), and they wish to stand as clear of it as they can. They feel that there are endangered persons in their home, or circle of their acquaintances, or Christian congregation with which they are connected; and they wish to guard them as well as they can. They feel that they are in danger themselves, and they wish to be on their guard. And those who for such reasons as these can sacrifice their gratification are deserving of all honor. Let us see that (in the discouragement of drinking) our influence is duly on the side of temperance, that we are doing nothing to hinder others in their struggle (often painful) towards virtue and happiness.
2. Persuasive to true excitement. "But be filled with the Spirit." The apostle does not forbid all excitement; rather for the excitement which he negatives as false would he substitute a true excitement.
(1) We can be drunken with wine; we are to be filled (never can be drunken) with the Spirit. There is warning connected with the use of wine, but there is no warning connected with the reception of the exhilarating influences of the Spirit. Our appetite is encouraged here: "Be filled with the Spirit." We can never be too much abandoned to spiritual appetite; it can never grow in us to dangerous strength. In our carnality we know too little of what it is to be joyfully excited in our highest nature. Cowper tells us how he must have died with joy it special strength had not been given him to bear the Divine disclosures. And Jonathan Edwards tells how he felt as though rapt and swallowed up in God. Doubtless such a state (so far ordinary) was the foundation for the supernatural communications which John received in Patmos. Let it not be thought that this is too high. There must be something of this pure excitement experienced in us, if we would be cured of love for false excitement. We do not despise other cures; but this is the best cure for drunkenness, this is the all-effectual positive which we are to put in its place.
(2) The manifestations of excitement from wine are unseemly; the manifestations of excitement from the Spirit are pure and lovely.
(a) Singing. It is known how to take advantage of harmonious sound in encouraging men to go into battle in "the shrill trump, the spirit-stirring drum, the ear-piercing fife." It is also known how to use it as an auxiliary in the service of superstition, revelry, and vice. And God, in his infinite wisdom, has seen fit to make use of the same instrumentality. In the old Jewish temple four thousand Levites, an entire fourth division of them, were employed in connection with the service of praise. God has inspired and enabled men to write psalms and hymns for the sanctuary; and he has also enabled men to compose suitable music for them. The singing of musical words, with or without an instrumental accompaniment, has a wonderful power in stirring emotion, in waking sweet and glad memories, and even in exciting the imagination in a certain vagueness and immensity which belongs to the sounds. As in a sea-shell pressed to the ear we are said to hear the sound of the ocean from which it has come, So in the sweet strains of music may we hear a sounding as from the eternal shores.
"Thou, Lord, art the Father of music:
Sweet sounds are a whisper from thee."
In an elevated mood (as here supposed) we naturally give expression to our feelings in song. "Is any cheerful? let him sing praise."
(α) Singing together. "Speaking one to another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs." Men, under the excitement of the Spirit, delight to sing spiritual songs (as distinguished from the songs of the drunkard). Under this come the psalms in their grand historic position. And there also come hymns, that is, songs other than the psalms, which are used in praise. We are to speak one to another by means of these. Pliny records of the early Christians that they were wont on a fixed day to meet before daylight (to avoid persecution), and to recite a hymn among themselves by turns to Christ as to God. Luther greatly advanced the cause of the Reformation by his hymns, which were sung at the firesides of the people. How we can thus breathe the spirit of confidence, of courage, of hope, into one another! Having encouraged ourselves in the Rock of our strength, we turn and thus speak to our fellow-worshippers, one to the rest, or one section to another—
"Ye people, place your confidence
In him continually;
Before him pour ye out your heart:
God is our Refuge high."
(β) Singing with the heart. "Singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord." Singing together can only occupy a small proportion of our time. But in our other engagements we may be so full of trust, so free from care, that we sing with the heart. And the song that we sing all day is set to the Name of Christ, to the work of redemption.
"There are in this low stunning tide
Of human care and crime,
With whom the melodies abide Of the everlasting chime;
Who carry music in their heart
Through dusky lane and wrangling mart,
Plying their daily task with busier feet
Because their secret souls a holy strain repeat?"
(b) Thanksgiving. "Giving thanks always for all things, in the Name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God, even the Father." This is another beautiful manifestation of spiritual excitement. In our higher moods we naturally turn to God in joyful gratitude. Thanksgiving (to which the drunkard must be a stranger, for he abuses his mercies), like song, is to run like a golden thread through the whole of our life. In the depths of our heart we can be always thankful, though the language of thankfulness cannot be always on our lips. We have to thank God that a joyful thrill of the Spirit can pass through our being, better than of wine. We have to thank God for innumerable mercies.
"New mercies each returning day
Hover around us while we pray;
New perils past, new sins forgiven,
New thoughts of God, new hopes of heaven."
We have to thank God even for our afflictions, which are blessings in disguise; for though, in so far as they are evil, we are to be reconciled to them, yet we have to thank God for that which is good in them, viz. the merciful design, the accompanying comfort, the resulting benefit. And as we receive all only through Christ, so we are to give thanks to the Father in the Name of Christ.
(c) Subjection. "Subjecting yourselves one to another in the fear of Christ." It seems strange that this should be mentioned as one of the manifestations of spiritual elevation. We can only think of it in this way. As men under the excitement of wine are apt to be self-assertive, heady, so under the excitement of the Spirit we have such a fund of joy in ourselves that we are content to fall into every position of subjection in which God would place us. The particulars of this subjection follow; it here only concerns us to note the peculiar feeling which is associated with it, viz. the fear of Christ. We know that from all the joy of his first visit as a youth to the temple, the joy of his being there about his Father's business, he could go down and be subject to his parents. And we know that, amid all the rapture of the transfiguration, he could yet think of subjection to the Father's will in his decease. As, then, we reverence Christ and fear to offend him, let us (with all that we experience of the higher excitement) be subject one to another.—R.F.
I. DUTY OF WIVES. "Wives, be in subjection unto your own husbands."
1. Ground of subjection.
(1) The husband represents Christ to the wife. "As unto the Lord." The original of the position of husband is to be found in Christ. It is in this character that he appears in the forty-fifth psalm, in the Song of Songs, and in other parts of Scripture. He is the absolute impersonation of the idea (the Husband by pre-eminence); and what we find in the human family on earth is only a faint copy of the original. It is true, too, that the husband is not in the family in his own name. He derives his authority from Christ. He is there as representing Christ. He is there as though Christ were there. What, then, the wife is in duty bound to render to her husband, she is not to render to him simply, but to him as representing Christ.
(2) It has its foundation in nature. The natural relationship. "For the husband is the head of the wife." It is not implied in this that the husband is superior to the wife in all qualities, but only that he is her superior in those qualities which fit him for being head. Especially his superior strength and self-reliance mark him out for taking the leading part. He is husband, or band of the house—what keeps it undivided and keeps it up. He has to come between his wife and the world, to shield her from its glare and its harm. While she is a keeper at home, he has to go out and work for her, that he may provide for her maintenance and comfort. It is therefore fitting that she should lean upon him and be guided by him. The Christian analogy. "As Christ also is the Head of the Church." The headship is a great doctrine for the Church, already taught in this Epistle. As the wife in her weakness and distrustfulness of self leans upon her husband, so the Church in her weakness and felt insufficiency is to lean upon Christ. Worldly powers may be hostile, but she can never be deprived of the protection of her Head. Protected by him, she must be dictated to by none, but must take the law, pure and simple, from his lips. In the analogy there is an important difference. "Being himself the Savior of the body." It must very seldom have happened that one has made a wife of her whom he has rescued from a watery grave or other form of death. But it is true of Christ that he has made a spouse of her whom he has delivered from everlasting destruction. He is Savior of the body, i.e. the Church. That makes his headship peculiar (without analogy in the earthly type), and gives him a peculiar hold on the obedience of the Church.
2. Manner and extent of subjection.
(1) Manner. "But" (that is, though Christ is more than Protector, is also Savior of the Church) "as the Church is subject to Christ, so let the wives also be to their husbands." The ideal set before her is that, as the Church deports herself toward Christ, so she is to deport herself toward her husband. It has this advantage (high as it is) that, by entering into the spirit of her relationship to her husband, she should be greatly assisted in subjecting herself (as her husband under some disadvantage must also subject himself) to Christ.
(2) Extent. "In everything." The necessary limitation here is—in everything that he, acting in the Name of Christ, has a right to expect of her. If he were laying anything sinful or purely arbitrary and tyrannical upon her, she would be justified in resisting him (appealing from him to Christ). But if it is within his right, and what he judges important, then (even when she cannot give her approval) she should be willing to fall in with his arrangement.
II. DUTY OF HUSBANDS. Husbands, love your wives. As the husband excels in the governing qualities, so she excels in the lovable qualities.
"For softness she, and sweet attractive grace."
If it can be said that he has more power, it can be said that (by her pure and modest feeling, her deep tenderness and devotion) she has more influence.
1. Manner. Christian analogy. "Even as Christ also loved the Church." We are to think of the love of Christ here only under the special aspect in which the apostle presents it, viz. his conjugal love, or love of espousals.
(1) His devotion to his spouse. "And gave himself up for it" (or "her," as in the original). "Israel served for a wife, and for a wife he kept sheep." Years of servitude he had to give for Rachel; yet they seemed to him but a few days, for the love he bore to her. It was a hard price he had to pay for her; but we read here of what was infinitely harder, of One who had to give himself for his spouse. He had to forget himself in humiliation and sorrow and death for her, and yet, hard as that was beyond all conception, it appeared as though it was nothing, for the love he bore to her.
(2) Purpose of his devotion.
(a) Immediate purpose (process of sanctification). "That he might sanctify it, having cleansed it by the washing of baptism. The water with the Word. The language is taken from the ordinance of fact is pointed to that the Church needs cleansing. Baptism goes upon the supposition that we are all by nature defiled with sin. It says this, "We are all as an unclean thing." The Church was in this state of impurity when the Son chose her for his bride. To this the words apply—He loved her foul that he might make her fair. Washed certainly she must be, to be fit for associating with the highest purity. The blessed fact is also pointed to that there is what has cleansing power. "By the washing of water," it is said here. It is the water used in baptism that we are to think of, and that water in what it signifies, viz. the purifying influences of the Spirit. As water washes defilement from vessels, from the person, so the Spirit washes moral defilement from our hearts. This washing of water must be accompanied with the Word. For the Spirit cannot purify alone, but only through what the Word reveals, especially that blood of Christ which is said to cleanse from all sin.
(b) Remote purpose (result of sanctification). "That he might present the Church to himself a glorious Church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish." By this we are to understand that Christ is to have in the Church a bride of incomparable beauty. When the cleansing process has been completed, the Church will be glorious ("all-glorious" is the language of the forty-fifth psalm, and the effect of the description here), more glorious than any material substance can be, more glorious than the sun in the heavens. There will not be spot or trace left of her former defilement. There will not be wrinkle or sign appearing of coming age (such as come. s to an ordinary bride). To make it more emphatic, it is added that there will not be any such thing, nothing whatever to mar her beauty. But still the description proceeds; she will be holy. Her beauty (as it will not be imperfect or fading) will not be outward, but will be the beauty of holiness. And she will be without blemish, so transcendently beautified that to add to her beauty would be (in things that are less)
"To gild refined gold, to paint the lily,
To throw a perfume on the violet."
At present the Son's bride has many a spot, many a wrinkle (her cleansing must still go on, her beauty needs bringing out), but the time is coming (in the Divine purpose which cannot fail, in the conception of Christ which must be realized) when she will be a fit bride for him. And then it is that, as is said here, he is to present her to himself. tie is to leave it to no other (say, angelic attendants) to present her, but he is to take it into his own hand (notwithstanding the double character in which it requires him to act). And this done, then, as is said in the Prophet Zephaniah, he will rejoice over her with joy, He will rest in his love; he will joy over her with singing. This, then, is the ideal which is put before husbands. It is what we could not have dared to have put before us of ourselves. It would have seemed profanity to have conjoined things so far apart. But thus it has been dictated for us by the Spirit of inspiration: "Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the Church." The husband is to possess, to cherish, and to manifest devoted love toward his wife. And if his is the position of authority, yet is he (an all-requiring love being also his) to forget himself in services rendered to her. And specially is he taught from the high model that he is not to pamper his wife, but he is to regard her as given him for a higher end, and to seek that she may possess all spiritual beauty.
2. Ground. "Even so ought husbands also to love their own wives as their own bodies." The ground of the duty is that the wife is one flesh with the husband. There are two points (not immediately connected, but brought up afterward) which go to prove this. The first is that woman derived her being from man. Eve was taken out of Adam, and the language was used regarding her by Adam: "This is now bone of my bone, and flesh of my flesh." The second point is that, in the marriage union, man and woman are said to become one flesh. "For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife; and the twain shall become one flesh." The wife, then, being one flesh with the husband, there comes into operation (in support of the duty of the husband) the principle of self-preservation. "He that loveth his own wife loveth himself: for no man ever hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it." The Christian analogy. "Even as Christ also the Church." Christ bestows a fostering care on the Church; and this is not only lovely, but it is thoroughly natural. For:
(1) The Church is one flesh with Christ by derivation. "Because we are members of his body." Her spiritual being is from Christ as much as Eve's physical being was from Adam.
(2) The Church becomes one flesh with Christ in the marriage union. Here the words of the marriage ceremony ere quoted with the added comment, "This mystery is great: but I speak in regard of Christ and of the Church." The language, "one flesh," has a strangeness in its application to an ordinary marriage union, but the apostle is careful to let us know that he uses it in reference to the mystical union of Christ and the Church. Shall we think of the Son leaving his Father's house and cleaving to his bride in human flesh? But we must not (as some have done) pry too curiously into it; for it is a mystery, and we must simply lay hold upon the great fact that it points to the union between Christ and the Church being so intimate that he loves her as he loves himself.
III. RECAPITULATION (order of duties inverted). Duty of husband. "Nevertheless [i.e. not to press the mystical bearings of the subject] do ye also severally love each one his own wife even as himself." It is again an ideal of very difficult attainment. What a fostering care is conjoined with his authority! And this to be Christ-like (in that fostering care which he is now bestowing upon his Church, and which he will one day bring to a mature result)? Duty of wife. "And let the wife see that she fear her husband." He may personally be deficient (in comparison with her) in those qualities which fit him for being head, but nevertheless she is to show deference to him in respect of the position which he holds. In the precept here it is supposed that he has Christian worth (which is what the representative of Christ should have, what is the adornment of his position). And even when a Christian wife cannot look to Christian worth in her husband, yet must she preserve reverence toward him, while at the same time seeking to win him over to Christ. Two lessons may be learned here.
1. Marriage is a Christian ordinance. It is not, indeed, to be raised (as it is by the Roman Catholics) to the rank of a Christian sacrament; but neither is it to be reduced to a mere civil arrangement. It is here associated with the sublimest Christian thought. This, and the presence of Christ at the marriage in Cana of Galilee, give it a thoroughly Christian character and throw a Christian halo around it of the brightest nature.
2. It is not to be lightly entered into, but in a Christian manner. Man and woman must belong to the Lord before they belong to each other, and are to enter into the married state that they may help each other to be more entirely the Lord's. A Christian is not at liberty to marry one who is not a Christian (even in the hope of making him or her a Christian). A Christian even among Christians is to seek from the Lord.
"And now, before the word we speak
That knits the bond man must not break,
We fain would know thy mind.
Lord, be the sweet conviction given
To both that thou thyself in heaven
The hallowed bond hast twined."
It is in that spirit that it ought to be contemplated. Without this there can be no security for happiness or for Christ being honored in connection with the union formed,—R.F.
HOMILIES BY D. THOMAS
Covetousness amongst the worst of human crimes.
"But fornication, and all uncleanness, or covetousness, let it not be once named among you, as becometh saints; neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor jesting, which are not convenient: but rather giving of thanks. For this ye know, that no whoremonger, nor unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, hath any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God. Let no man deceive you with vain words: for because of these things cometh the wrath of God upon the children of disobedience. Be not ye therefore partakers with them." The subject which we gather from these words is that covetousness is amongst the worst of human crimes.
I. IT IS HERE CLASSED WITH CRIMES OF THE WORST CHARACTER, There are three sins amongst which covetousness is placed in the text: unbridled licentiousness, "fornication," and "whoremongery"—revolting indecency; "filthiness," that which is so unchaste and impure as to awaken universal disgust; and immoral speech—speech that is frivolous, untruthful, obscene, profane. These are sins confessedly of enormous magnitude. All true souls recoil from them, all pure minds renounce them as a degradation of the race and an offence to Almighty God. But mark, amongst these covetousness is placed. It is ranked with them as related to them in moral vileness. More than this, it is singled out as worse than these—"a covetous man, who is an idolater." What is idolatry? Holding anything nearer to the heart than God. The "covetous man" loves money more than anything else, and money is his god. We here in England are very zealous for the conversion of heathen idolaters. We create and sustain costly organizations, but there is no idolatry more real, more powerful, more damning, than the idolatry that prevails throughout England. What god in heathendom is more earnestly and constantly served than Mammon is served in this island? Before the introduction of Christianity into this country there were many idols here. "In Scotland stood the temple of Mars; in Cornwall, the temple of Mercury; in Bangor, the temple of Minerva; at Malden, the temple of Victoria; in Bath, the temple of Apollo; at Leicester, the temple of Janus; at York, where St. Peter's now stands, the temple of Bellona; in London, on the site of St. Paul's Cathedral, the temple of Diana; and at Westminster, where the Abbey rears its venerable pile, a temple of Apollo." But Mammon now has a temple everywhere, a temple on every hill and in every valley, in every church and house. Mammon has said to England, "Thou shalt have none other gods beside me," and England heartily responds, "Amen."
II. IT IS HERE CLASSED WITH THE WORST OF CRIMES, AS EXCLUDING FROM THE KINGDOM OF GOD. "For this ye know, that no whoremonger, nor unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, hath any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God." From this passage may be inferred:
1. That heaven is a kingdom. There is rule and order there.
2. That heaven is a Divine kingdom. "Kingdom of Christ and of God." Christ reigns there. He is in the midst of the throne; his Spirit animates all; his Spirit fills all with adoring wonder and worship. Christ reigns as God there. Βασιλείᾳ τοῦ Χριστοῦ καὶ Θεοῦ. Christ and God. The heavens are a kingdom managed, not by Divine partnership,—it is governed by God in Christ.
3. That heaven excludes evil characters of all descriptions. How clearly and forcibly this is declared in Scripture!—"The works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness .. of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God" (Galatians 5:19-48.5.21). "Without are dogs, and sorcerers, and whoremongers, and murderers, and idolaters, and whosoever loveth and maketh a lie." With the excluded will be the covetous man. Yes, though he has been a member of a Christian Church, though cultured in intellect, chaste in feeling, and refined in manners, though an eloquent preacher of the gospel of benevolence, he will find no admission into that world. He will be "without." With whom? Will he have a place set apart for himself? No, with the common damned.
III. IT IS HERE CLASSED WITH THE WORST OF CRIMES REPUGNANT TO THE DIVINE NATURE. "For because of these things cometh the wrath of God." Paul says, in his letter to the Romans, that "the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men." His deep, settled, immutable antagonism to wrong of all kinds is clearly revealed in the gospel of Jesus Christ. But is there any sin more repugnant to the Divine nature than covetousness, which is idolatry? What sin has the Almighty denounced with greater frequency and force than that of idolatry? But why should covetousness be so abhorrent to the Almighty?
1. Because it involves a real-appropriation of the blessings of Providence. God's will is that whatever a man, either by good fortune or by industry, obtains of this world's goods, should be expended for the advancement of truth and the general promotion of human happiness. But the covetous man appropriates all to pamper his own appetites, gratify his own vanity, and promote his own selfish and ambitious ends.
2. Because it involves an utter perversion of his own spiritual nature. The powers of the soul are not given to amass material wealth, nor the affections to love it. On the contrary, they were given to gather elements of the highest knowledge, and to love and serve the Infinite supremely in all. The soul was made to have God, not money, as the dominant subject of thought and the dominant object of love.
3. Because it involves the promotion of misery in the universe. Nothing is more repugnant to the heart of the' loving God than misery. The cause of universal happiness is-his, but the covetous man is necessarily a promoter of misery in his own soul, misery in his circle, misery through the creation. God's order is that no man should live unto himself, that all should labor for the common weal; in this way only the good of the universe can be served, its blessedness advanced, and its order maintained. Every man who sets himself up as his own end in labor and life opposes all the arrangements of God. He does what he can to create discords in its harmonies, miasma in its' atmosphere, poison in its streams. No wonder, then, that the "wrath of God" is against "the covetous man."—D.T.
"For ye were sometimes darkness, but now are ye light in the Lord: walk as children of light: (for the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness and righteousness and truth;) proving what is acceptable unto the Lord." These verses present to us the Christian life in its transformation, obligation, and demonstration.
I. TRANSFORMATION. A true Christian is one who has been changed from darkness into light. The figurative language implies:
1. A change from immorality to holiness. "Darkness" is the emblem of depravity. "They that be drunken are drunken in the night." The ghastly legions of hell win their most terrible victories in the gloom and silence of night. The "light" is a symbol of purity.
2. A change from ignorance to knowledge. Darkness clouds our vision, and hides from us the world in which we live. Man in an unregenerated state is in the moral world as a man in midnight. "Light" is a symbol of intelligence.
3. A change from sadness to joy. Darkness is depressing. Even the irrational creatures feel its dejecting power. Sin is sadness; true religion is joy. We are told that there is "no night in heaven." It means that there is no immorality, no ignorance, no sorrow there. How great the change that has taken place in a true Christian man!
II. OBLIGATION. Two duties are here indicated.
1. Walking in light. "Walk as children of light." Don't go back into darkness. Nay, don't remain in the twilight of Christian experience, but step farther and farther into the day. Leave the valleys, scale the hills, and come more directly under the broad beams of day. To walk in the light is to walk intelligently, safely, and joyously.
2. Pleasing God. The ninth verse being parenthetical, the last clause of the eighth verse should be read with the tenth, "Walk as children of light, proving what is acceptable—well-pleasing—unto the Lord." "Be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect will of God" (Romans 12:2). The expression "well-pleasing" to God throws a light upwards on God and downwards on man.
(1) It reveals God. It indicates
(a) his moral susceptibility. He is not indifferent to the moral conduct of his creatures. It indicates
(b) his forgiving mercy. Man, though a sinner, can, through his infinite mercy, render himself acceptable to him.
(2) It reveals man.
(a) It indicates the highest end of his being. What higher object can a creature have than to please the Creator?
(b) It indicates the highest blessedness of his being. The smile of the Creator is the heaven of the creature.
III. DEMONSTRATION. The Christian man develops in his life certain glorious things. "The fruit of the Spirit ['light'] is in all goodness and righteousness and truth." He demonstrates in his life:
1. Divine beneficence. "In all goodness." He is full of social love, tender, compassionate, self-sacrificing.
2. Divine righteousness. He is a man of inflexible honesty, unswerving rectitude. In him the "righteousness of the Law is fulfilled."
3. Divine reality. His thoughts, sympathies, actions, are in harmony with the eternal realities of being. He is neither a visionary nor a hypocrite. His thoughts are true, his life is sincere.
CONCLUSION. What an infinite boon is the gospel to mankind! How glorious the transformation it effects! how righteous the obligation it imposes! how great the power it confers!—a power to demonstrate in our life the good, the right, and the true.—D.T.
(1) Two worlds of one race.
"And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them. For it is a shame even to speak of those things which are done of them in secret. But all things that are reproved are made manifest by the light: for whatsoever doth make manifest is light. Wherefore he saith, Awake thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light." The text may be regarded as a portraiture of two distinct worlds of men on this earth—the world of the wicked and the world of the Christly. Here we have—
I. THE WORLD OF WICKED MEN. The characteristics of these men are here indicated.
1. They are worthless. Their works are "the unfruitful works of darkness." Ungodly men live in moral darkness. The sun, which alone reveals things as they are in the spiritual world, shines not in their heavens. All the light they have are the electric flashes of an impure atmosphere. They work in the dark, and their works are "unfruitful." That is "unfruitful "' of good. The soil that is sterile as regards its capability of producing fruit is often fertile in its capacity to produce noxious weeds and poisonous herbs; so the ungodly soul—it is unfruitful in goodness, but prolific in crime.
2. They are clandestine. "Which are done of them in secret." Though there may be an allusion here to the abominable mysteries which were celebrated in Greece under the screen of night and secrecy, it describes the general character of a sinful life. All is secret. Sin is necessarily hypocritical; it speaks in a false voice; it works under masks. The more corrupt the human soul the more sneakish and clandestine. The good alone can afford to be bland and open.
3. They are shameful. "For it is a shame even to speak of those things." Heathenism has ever abounded and still abounds with nameless iniquities (Romans 1:24-45.1.32). But sin in all its forms is a shameful thing. It is essentially disgraceful, disreputable, and ignominious. A man has only to think calmly of it in the light of conscience and God, in order to bring burning blushes to his cheek. Sin is a shame.
4. They are sleepy. "Wherefore he saith, Awake thou that sleepest." A sinful soul is sleepy in a moral sense. It is unconscious of its moral surroundings—it is filled with illusory dreams; it must one day be aroused to a sense of reality. Unlike natural sleep, moral sleep does not refresh and invigorate, but enervates and destroys.
5. They are mortal. "Arise from the dead." Everywhere the Bible represents sin as a state of death. The sinful soul is like a corpse. It is odious and the victim of external forces. Such is the world of wicked men around us. It is worthless, clandestine, shameful, sleepy, mortal.
II. THE WORLD OF CHRISTLY MEN. These are represented by the Christians at Ephesus, the men to whom the apostle is writing. This world has a work to do with the other—the dark world of wickedness around them. And it is here indicated. What is it?
1. Separation. "Have no fellowship." It does not mean, of course, that Christians are to have no intercourse or dealings with the ungodly. This could not be, and ought not to be if it could. It means that they are to have no spiritual identification with them—no thoughts, purposes, or feelings alike. That, like Christ, they are to be "separate from sinners." Morally detached as the lamp from the darkness. "I have written unto you not to keep company, if any man that is called a brother be a fornicator, or covetous, or an idolater, or a railer, or a drunkard, or an extortioner: with such a one no not to eat" (1 Corinthians 5:11). "Wherefore come out from among them," etc. (2 Corinthians 6:14-47.6.18).
2. Reprehension. "But rather reprove them." Reprove them by lip. In the name of purity and truth expose and denounce their wickedness. Reprove them by life. Let the life stand in such a grand contrast to all that is sinful that it may be a standing rebuke.
3. Illumination. "All things that are reproved are made manifest by the light." Hold forth the light of the gospel in the midst of a "crooked and perverse generation."
4. Resuscitation. "Awake thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead." Thunder in the ear of the sleeper; speak life into the heart of the dead. There is living light for all in Christ. "Christ shall give thee light." "He is the Light of the world." The idea of this verse seems to be that, if Christians will use all their efforts to convert men, they may expect Christ to shine upon them and bless them. The "light" that comes from him is a soul-quickening light. "The hour is coming, and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God: and they that hear shall live" (John 5:25). Elijah raised the dead; so did the apostles. We, also, in God's great Name, can raise the dead—dead souls. The resurrection of a soul is a far grander work than the resurrection of a body. Let us sound the blast of the gospel trumpet over moral cemeteries, and the graves will open and dead souls come forth to life.—D.T.
(2) Two worlds of one race.
"See then that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil. Wherefore be ye not unwise, but understanding what the will of the Lord is. And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit; speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord; giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the Name of our Lord Jesus Christ; submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God.' All these verses must be brought in under the same heading as the verses discussed in our preceding article, viz.—Two worlds of one race. These verses continue to indicate the duties pertaining to the world of Christian men. The duties, which we previously discussed, were separation, reprehension, illumination, and resuscitation; the duties which we have now to notice are Christian consistency, holy excitement, and social worship.
I. CHRISTIAN CONSISTENCY. "See then that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise." The verses teach that walking strictly in harmony with the Christian creed implies:
1. Wisdom. "Not as fools, but as wise." A conduct inconsistent with the Christian creed we profess is exceedingly foolish.
(1) It damages our own moral nature.
(2) It misrepresents the gospel of Christ.
(3) It insults the omniscience of God.
Hypocrisy is in every way unwise.
2. Diligence. "Redeeming the time"—"Buying up opportunities." How is time to be redeemed? Not by regaining any portion of the past. The past is irrecoverably gone. Not by inoperative regrets concerning the wrong of the past. Not by mere sentimental desires that the future may be better. How then?
(1) By deducing the true moral lessons of the past.
(2) By a deep and devout determination to avoid all the evils of the past.
(3) By turning every circumstance of our life to a right spiritual account.
"Because the days are evil," says Paul. The times in which Paul wrote were corrupt; our times are corrupt. There are several things that make our times evil.
(1) A ruling secularism. How mercenary is our age!
(2) Religious formalism. The forms of religion abound every- where; the real spirit is rare. The "letter" is killing the "spirit."
(3) Skeptical rationalism. The world's philosophy, as it is called, is for the most part anti-theistic, anti-supernatural, anti-Christian. These elements fill the social atmosphere with the moral fungi that make our "days" evil. Because our days are charged with so many evils we should be diligent; we should seize every opportunity to crush the wrong and to promote the right.
3. Inquiry. "Understanding what the will of the Lord is." God has a will concerning us, and it is our duty to endeavor to understand it, and for this purpose we must inquire into it.
II. HOLY EXCITEMENT. "Be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit." This verse suggests several thoughts.
1. Man has an instinctive craving for excitement. The words evidently imply this. Paul assumes that his readers must have excitement, in telling them in what they should and in what they should not find it. Excitement is a necessity of our nature. The soul has a deep hunger for it.
(1) Observation shows this. Look at society, either as it appears on the page of history or as it surrounds you now in all the activities of life, and you will find that the love of excitement explains much of all its restlessness, amusements, and toils.
(2) Consciousness shows this. All are conscious of this impulse. Monotony and stagnation become intolerable. We crave a quicker pulse, a warmer and a fuller passion. Yes, man has a native hunger for excitement. Hence the popularity of sensational theatres, sports, books, scenes, music, sermons.
2. Man has recourse to improper expedients for excitement. "Be not drunk with wine." Wine stimulates excitement. It quickens the pulse, it heats the blood, it fires the passions. Hence men like it. They use it, not for the sake of intoxication, but excitement. Wine-drinking is only one of many improper expedients for excitement. Drunkenness is here a type of whatever improperly stimulates the senses and enkindles the lusts.
(1) There is sensualism. How many seek excitement in an inordinate gratification of mere animal propensities!
(2) There is gambling. What thousands resort to the race-course, the exchange, the billiard-table, for excitement!
(3) There is immoral literature. Luscious tales, filthy narratives, and sensational romances;—these are eagerly sought because they make the imagination glow with impure fires.
III. SOCIAL WORSHIP. "Speaking to yourselves," etc. These verses (from the nineteenth to the twenty-first) show what is meant by being "filled with the Spirit."
1. High spiritual intercourse with man. "Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs." Speaking to men the highest things in the highest forms of language—poetry. High feeling always runs into poetry.
2. Devout fellowship with Christ. "Singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord." The soul pouring out its devotions in sweet melodies in the Divine ear.
3. Thankful recognition of Divine favors. "Giving thanks always for all things unto God."
4. Godly devotion to the common weal. "Submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God." All this is implied in being "filled with the Spirit?' And is there not sufficient excitement here? To be filled with the Spirit is to be filled with the Spirit's ideas; and what exciting ideas are his! With the Spirit's purposes; and what inspiring purposes are his! With the Spirit's love; and what an immensity of stirring impulses is in that love!—D.T.
"Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the Head of the Church: and he is the Savior of the body. Therefore as the Church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in everything. Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the Church, and gave himself for it; that he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the Word, that he might present it to himself a glorious Church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish. So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife loveth himself. For no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as the Lord the Church: for we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones. For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh. This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the Church. Nevertheless let every one of you in particular so love his wife even as himself; and the wife see that she reverence her husband." The subject of this passage is Ideal matrimony; or, God's idea of the marriage state. As we look into it, our convictions will deepen that the Divine idea is but very partially, if at all, developed in the matrimonial alliances of modern society. What is marriage? It comes not within the limits of our purpose or space to enter into a full discussion of the grand subject of human marriage. Our readers will find a very learned and exhaustive treatment of this question in Dr. William Smith's 'Dictionary of the Bible.' Our remarks must be confined entirely to those phases of the subject which the passage under review suggests. On all hands it is admitted that marriage—that is, the union of one man to one woman—is a Divine ordination. Some philosophers see the principle of matrimony running through all nature, not only in the sexual distinction of all animals, but in the sexual form of all kinds of vegetable life. But the Bible is our authority. The Divine institution of marriage is clearly taught, both in the Old and the New Testaments. In the opening pages of the Divine volume we read these words, "And the Lord God said, It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him." And in the New Testament we have these words from the lips of the Son of God himself, "Have ye not read, that he which made them at the beginning made them male and female, and said, For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they twain shall be one flesh? wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder" (Matthew 19:4-40.19.6). What does the text teach concerning marriage? It teaches—
I. That marriage implies MORAL ROYALTY ON THE PART OF THE HUSBAND. Wives are here commanded to submit themselves unto their husbands "as unto the Lord." The husband is here called the "head of the wife, even as Christ is the Head of the Church," and the apostle concludes the paragraph by saying, "Let the wife see that she reverence her husband." The idea of supremacy, therefore, on the part of the husband is manifest throughout the passage. But what is the rule to be? Not the rule of superior muscular force or intellectual power. Such a rule would be despotism and nothing less. The apostle teaches here that the husband's rulership should be similar to that rulership that Christ holds over the Church.
1. The husband is to rule by moral influence. How does Christ rule the Church? Not by force, but by love; by the royalty of his character, the sublimity of his thoughts, the Divine grandeur of his aims. The Church bows lovingly to his authority, because of the supremacy of his excellence. Thus the husband is to rule the wife, for "the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the Head of the Church." It is only as the wife sees in her husband true moral grandeur that she can bow loyally to his scepter and feel a loving reverence in her heart.
2. The husband is to rule for beneficent ends.
(1) The rule is to be restorative. "He is the Savior of the body." This refers to Christ. The Church is his body; he is to it what the soul is to the body—the ever-present, animating, controlling spirit. So the grand object of the husband should be to save his wife—save her from all that is mean and coarse, from all that decades the character or pains the soul. Her true elevation, and not the gratification of her vanity, or pride, or lower appetites, should be his master aim.
(2) This rule is to be universal. "In everything." It is to extend through the whole of domestic life. Indeed, a true moral rule over the heart will extend to "everything" in the woman's life.
(3) The rule is to be self-sacrificing in spirit. "Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ loved the Church, and gave himself for it." The husband's love should be that of the highest chivalry—a love that shrinks at no sacrifice in order to bless and ennoble the partner of his choice. It must be of the same kind as that which prompted Christ to give himself for the salvation of the world. Ay, and he must have the same grand object, too—viz, the perfect cleansing of his bride from all that is morally corrupt. Christ loved the Church, and gave himself for it; what for? "That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the Word, that he might present it to himself a glorious Church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish." It is said that the glowworm never shines after it has become a parent. Some women lose the luster of all delicacy and refinement under the influence of men whom they call their husbands. The aim of the true husband should be to make the character of his wife a "glorious" character, "without spot or blemish." Behold and admire this Divine picture of a true husband! The marriage in which there is not such a husband is no true marriage. It is an impious mockery. When a woman in the marriage ceremony of Churches is called upon to obey a man smaller in intellect, narrower in sympathies, and inferior in moral character to herself, she is called upon to do violence to her nature—to do that, in fact, which the eternal laws of mind forbid her in sincerity and truth ever to perform. Who can admire the contemptible? who can reverence the mean? The man should appear as a morally royal man in her eyes, or he is no true husband at all.
II. That marriage implies MORAL LOVABLENESS ON THE PART OF THE WIFE. "So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies." If the wife is to be loved, she must be lovable, for it is as impossible for the human mind to love the morally unbeautiful as it is to believe a mathematical contradiction. There are women who are morally hideous, and from whom all manly natures must revolt with disgust. What is the truly lovable in a wife? Personal beauty? This may fascinate the eye for a short time, but it has no power to generate moral esteem. Brilliant genius or sparkling accomplishments? No; these may charm the fancy, but never evoke the true germ of manly love. What is the lovable? The text suggests two of its elements.
1. A vital sympathy with the spirit of a true husband. "So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife loveth himself. For no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as the Lord the Church." The true husband we have described: he is a royal man, who rules by moral influence for beneficent ends in the spirit of self-sacrificing love; and the true wife must have such a vital sympathy with that high moral spirit of his as to make the "twain one flesh." His aims are elevated, his spirit is Christ-like, and her whole heart being in vital accord with his, they are "no more twain, but one flesh." God, not priests nor hireling registrars, has joined them together.
2. A love-centralizing power of character. There must be that fascination and bewitchment of moral spirit about her that will draw the affections of her husband from all the dearest of other objects, and center them on herself. "For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh." He should discover in her virtues so numerous and strong as to draw his sympathies even from the nearest of his other relations and center them on her, feeling that he can repose in her his utmost confidence and bestow on her his choicest love.
CONCLUSION. It is obvious that the world abounds with spurious marriages. The popular idea of marriage is a legalized union of one man to one woman. Though the union may be formed by mere sensual impulses and selfish considerations, it is still called a marriage. Though it be formed, not only without any relative fitness between the parties conjoined, but with a painful discrepancy in temper, age, health, education, it is still called a marriage. Though it be formed without any element of moral excellence as a foundation, and without mutual love for virtue—simply because no mutual virtue exists—still it is called a marriage. The woman may be destitute of every high quality, immersed in sensuality and pride, still at the altar the man pledges to her his love; and the man may be a little soul, in every respect inferior to the woman, yet at the altar she pledges him reverence and obedience. Nothing is more baneful to a country than the corruption of the marriage institution. The law of England, alas l unites brutes and fiends together as well as saints.
"For marriage is a matter of more worth
Than to be dealt in by attorneyship:
For what is wedlock forced, but a hell,
An age of discord and continual strife?
Whereas the contrary bringeth forth happiness,
And is a pattern of celestial bliss."
HOMILIES BY W.F. ADENEY
"Imitators of God."
I. HOW IT IS POSSIBLE FOR US TO BE IMITATORS OF GOD. It is vain to try to imitate God if all resemblance to God is beyond our reach. But this is not the case. While speculative theology is fatally successful in magnifying the distance between man and God, practical revelation is ever bringing us nearer to God.
1. We are like God by nature. God is spirit, and we are spiritual beings. As Channing taught, all spirits are of one family. God made us in his own image. It is our work to revive that image where it has been obscured and to carry it up to higher resemblances.
2. We can imitate God in very small ways. Because he is infinite and we are finite we are not to infer that all common likeness is impossible. The smallest pool may bear a perfect image of the sun.
3. We are susceptible of indefinite growth and improvement. Because we are sadly unlike God now it does not follow that we may never resemble him. "It is not yet made manifest what we shall be. We know that, if he shall be manifested, we shall be like him" (1 John 3:2). God has revealed himself to us. We cannot imitate what we do not know. Mysteries of the Divine nature must ever lie beyond our sight. Nevertheless, something real about God we do know. For we have seen Christ, and he who sees Christ sees God (John 14:9).
II. IN WHAT RESPECTS WE ARE TO BECOME IMITATORS OF GOD. We cannot attain to his almighty energy nor to his unfathomable wisdom. Yet we may imitate the method of these Divine attributes in the exercise of corresponding human qualities. But the resemblance to God that is both most important and most attainable is moral and spiritual likeness in character and conduct. Consider especially in what points we most need to be like God.
3. Generous giving. There are men who are always grasping for themselves, and others who distribute abroad. The latter are like God, who is ever raying out blessings.
4. Forbearance. In nothing do we more need to imitate God than in his gentleness with sinners, his long-suffering patience, and his forgiving mercy.
5. Love. This is nearest to the heart and very being of God, for God is love. He who loves his kind most widely and warmly is likest God (see Ephesians 5:2).
III. WHY WE SHOULD BE IMITATORS OF GOD.
1. It is our natural duty. Nothing short of this will satisfy the claims of right. It is not enough that we follow the best men and conform with the utmost propriety to the pious fashions of the times, nor even that we obey our own consciences. We have to make our conduct agree with God's conscience. Duty is infinite—a ceaseless climbing to higher and yet higher regions of holiness. We cannot reach the pinnacle of perfection at once, and we are not guilty for not doing what lies beyond our present powers. But we are blameworthy if we aim at less than perfection and if we ever rest contented with any lower stage of progress. "Ye therefore shall be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect" (Matthew 5:48).
2. We are under obligations of gratitude to become imitators of God. The word" therefore" calls our attention to these obligations. It points back to the previous words, wherein we are exhorted to forgive one another, even as God also in Christ forgave us.
3. Our highest blessedness will be found in our resemblance to God. He is ever blessed. Everything ungodlike must be ultimately a source of pain and death. Though the imitation of God begins in toil and sacrifice, it grows into the deepest peace and the richest gladness.
IV. BY WHAT MEANS WE MAY BECOME IMITATORS OF GOD.
1. Worship. Heathen gods are objective representations, and even monstrous exaggerations, of the natures of their devotees. Such gods can have no good moral influence. But God, as he is revealed in Christ, is infinitely above us, and full of wonderful beauty and attraction. As we gaze upon his glory in rapt devotion we are changed into his likeness. We all imitate, consciously or unconsciously, what we admire. When we see a great picture we wish to paint; when we enjoy good music we desire to produce it; when we see noble deeds we are fired to emulate them.
2. Meditation. As St. Francis is said to have received the wounds of Christ on his own person by intense meditation on them, we may receive the spiritual likeness of our Lord—a more profitable resemblance—by contemplating and dwelling in the spirit of his life. Then also we shall have the likeness of God. He who is nearest to God in prayer and communion grows likest God.
3. Obedient action. We must do Divine deeds of holiness and charity if we would have the character that a habit of such deeds begets. All this God will supplement and vivify by the inspiration of his Holy Spirit breathing his own life and likeness into us.
V. IN WHAT SPIRIT WE ARE TO BECOME IMITATORS OF GOD. "As beloved children." Thus loved children venerate and imitate their parents. Here is no room for spiritual pride. For when we lose the childlike spirit we fall away from the imitation of God. They who imitate God most truly are most simple and childlike, and that spirit of trust in a loving parent which is the highest educational influence in the child, must be in us if we would be good imitators of God.—W.F.A.
The sacrifice of Christ.
I. THE SACRIFICE OF CHRIST WAS VOLUNTARY. He gave himself. He said he had power—right as well as ability—to lay down his life (John 10:18). Had the sacrifice of Christ not been the free giving of himself, it would have been like the human sacrifices of the heathen—a fearful deed in those who slew him and of no import to any one else. The essence of the sacrifice, all that gave to it propitiatory efficacy, was the willingness of the Sufferer who offered himself. God is not pleased with pain and death. What he is pleased with is the devotion, fidelity, and love that endure pain and death in the fulfillment of an unselfish and noble mission.
II. THE SACRIFICE OF CHRIST WAS OFFERED TO GOD. Christ was not simply a Martyr to truth, nor only a Sufferer in the cause of humanity. The cup that he drank was given to him by his Father. His persistence through mortal agony was in submission to the will of God. Gethsemane interprets Calvary. It reveals an essential element of the sacrifice of Christ that has been too much neglected in our theologies—the obedience of Christ. St. Paul saw tints when he said that Christ became "obedient unto death." Thus the cross was an altar and the crucifixion an offering to God.
III. THE SACRIFICE OF CHRIST WAS WELL-PLEASING TO GOD. In primite language it is said that when the smoke of Noah's sacrifice went up to heaven "God smelled a sweet savor"—literally, "a savor of satisfaction," i.e. it was acceptable to God. So Christ's sacrifice is described as "an odor of a sweet smell." Such an act of fidelity to God and love to man could not but be pleasing to God. Thus the sacrifice becomes a propitiation; it becomes the means through which God looks favorably on those for whom it is offered.
IV. THE SACRIFICE OF CHRIST WAS MADE ON OUR BEHALF. "For us." Men had often offered sacrifices for themselves—to express their own devotion and to expiate their own sins. It is customary now for people to talk of making a present sacrifice in order to secure a future advantage. But Christ's sacrifice was not for his own interests. It was the Shepherd giving his life for the sheep, the Friend laying down his life for his friends. His was the pain, ours is the gain; his the cross of death, ours the crown of life.
V. THE SACRIFICE OF CHRIST WAS OCCASIONED BY HIS LOVE TO US. "Christ also loved you." There was no necessity that Christ should die. Ordinary duty would not have required the sacrifice, for, though fidelity and obedience entered into it, these elements were consequent on the free undertaking of a work of love by Christ. Christ as a man was possessed of a great love of his kind that constrained him to die for the world; Christ as the Son of God and "the very image of his substance" (Hebrews 1:3) died because he was full of the love of the Father for his lost children.
VI. THE SACRIFICE OF CHRIST SHOULD LEAD US TO WALK IN LOVE.
1. In return for His love. Love should inspire love. If it does we shall show our love to Christ by loving our brethren.
2. In breathing his Spirit. Christianity is not merely appropriating the fruits of the work of Christ. It is following in his footsteps. Christians are called to be imitators of God, especially as he is manifested in Christ. An imitation of God must therefore consist chiefly in an exercise of love like that of Christ. tits love to us led him to submit to crucifixion. He asks us simply to walk in love.—W.F.A.
I. A DESCRIPTION. A particular kind of man is here addressed—"thou that sleepest;" "the dead."
1. The man is asleep. His sleep is spiritual indifference. Whether or no he has an abstract belief in religion is not of the slightest moment. He may be an atheist or he may be orthodox of the orthodox. So long as he is sleeping it matters little what he might have been doing had he been awake. The sleeper may have his eyes open to secular interests; he may have a quick intellect in speculation or a vigorous energy in business. Yet angels who see that he is unconscious of the greatest realities must regard him as a dreamer or at best as a restless sleep-walker.
2. This sleep is a sign of death. It is more than sleep. It is unnatural and impossible to a soul in full energy. Spiritual perceptions must have been dulled and spiritual powers paralyzed to admit of this blindness and stupor in regard to Divine things.
II. A CALL. Awake! Up! Arise! A loud voice disturbs the sleeper.
1. God calls, sometimes
(1) in providence, rousing the careless soul by the shock of some sudden change; and often
(2) in the gospel, for it is the duty of the preacher to speak in trumpet-notes, not merely to teach the attentive but also to rouse the listless.
2. It is important to respond to this call; for sleep is
(1) a sinful neglect of duty;
(2) a foolish loss of blessings—he who sleeps till the full day never sees the glory of the sunrise; and
(3) a dangerous condition—the longer a man sleeps the more difficult will it be to awake, and meanwhile death and judgment may be upon him.
3. It is possible to awake. The spiritual sleep is partly voluntary and semi-conscious. As a man sometimes knows that he is dreaming so he may be made aware that he is spiritually asleep and may rouse himself if he will. There is rousing power, too, in the Divine voice. It vexes a man to have his rest disturbed, but as one who wakes the sleeper when his house is on fire it comes for his deliverance and he will do well to bestir himself.
III. A PROMISE. "Christ shall shine upon thee." There is something to wake up for. Christ is the Light of the world. His people are now "light in the Lord." He brings to the waking soul truth, purity, and joy. When the storm rages and the dark night lingers, and to wake is only to take up again the burden of sorrow and grope in the hopeless gloom, a man has some excuse for sleeping. Despair may sleep. But the Christian finds a bright morning responding to his opening eyes. We are not to wake only to kindle a poor light for ourselves. We are rewarded for waking by the cheering brightness of Christ. We must rouse ourselves, however, to enjoy it. The people that sit in darkness see the great light only when they awake and arise from the dead.—W.F.A.
The value of time.
I. ALL TIME IS OF HIGH VALUE. They who kill time destroy one of the best talents God has given them and rob him of a sacred trust he has lent to them.
1. Time is not our own property. We are servants and have to account to our Master for our use of his hours.
2. Great concerns have to be attended to. Not only is art long while life is short, but duty is great, the claims of service are many, and the wants of our fellow-men are numerous. In this world of toil and strife and sorrow every moment is of value for some good deed of mercy or some solid work of truth.
3. Lost time is irrecoverable. We cannot redeem the time that has been wasted. A repentant diligence may bring back the inheritance that was squandered away in extravagant folly; careful attention may bring back the wasted health; but time once gone is gone forever.
4. Time may be made of increasing value. An hour is worth more in the use of one man than a day with another man.
II. SPECIAL OPPORTUNITIES ARE OF SPECIAL VALUE. St. Paul urges us to buy up "the seasons." All time is not of equal value. There are moments of peculiar preciousness. Woe to him who, through heedlessness or willful negligence, lets them slip! The moment when the rope floats by the drowning man it must be seized or he dies. Strike the iron while it is hot. Sow the seed in the spring if you would reap the harvest in the autumn.
1. Youth has its golden opportunities that belong go no other age. Young men especially should make the most of their own season.
2. Manhood has its time of vigor for work that will be beyond the strength of old age. The wise man will watch for occasions of usefulness that his word may be "in season."
III. THE TRUE VALUE OF TIME CAN ONLY BE OBTAINED AT A COST. We have to buy it up before we can make use of it.
1. We must spend thought in considering how we can best use our time and in watching for right opportunities. For want of due consideration there is a frightful lack of economy of energy and time.
2. We must sacrifice our own pleasure in giving up time that we are tempted to expend on ourselves, our amusement or our rest, to the service of God. He who only gives to God his leisure moments, when he is worn and jaded with his own selfish work, makes but a poor offering.
3. We must put out greater energy in order to make our time of more value. Few of us work on the highest subjects at full pressure. The busiest might do more good if, when they cannot as yet find time for serving Christ, they would make time.—W.F.A.
Drunkenness and its antidote.
I. THE SIN. It was the mistake of some of the earlier advocates of temperance to dwell too much on the economic arguments against drunkenness, to the neglect of those which are supplied by religion. That dissipation wrecks a man's position in the world is plain and sad enough. But it is not worldly self-interest that is chiefly outraged thereby. The sin of drunkenness is its great condemnation. It is a sin against God and man.
1. It desecrates the temple of the Holy Ghost.
2. It unfits a man for his mission in the world.
3. It occasions brutal unkindness to others, robbing the family of daily bread for the sake of gross self-indulgence, bringing poverty and gloom, wretchedness and terror on the home, and giving to children a hideous inheritance of disease and constitutional tendencies to the same vice.
4. It opens the door for other vices. Instead of pleading intoxication as an excuse for a crime committed in the madness of drink, a man should be made to feel that the wickedness of putting himself into such a condition was aggravated by the terrible results.
II. THE TEMPTATION. In order to remedy the fearful evil we must consider how it arises.
1. From customs of sociability. Drinking has been regarded as an almost necessary accompaniment of friendly intercourse.
2. From lack of mental occupation. Men spending hours together of a winter's night without any education to supply food for the mind resort to the glass as the one available relief from the tedium of doing nothing.
3. The craving or nervous stimulation. This is the real thirst of the excessive drinker. What is called "low spirits," resulting from general ill health, or nervous debility, or trouble, or as the natural consequence of previous indulgence, creates the craving for stimulants. Early in the present century, Lord Jeffrey quoted a statement of a physician of Liverpool, respecting some of the most prosperous merchants of that town. "He informs me," said the lord advocate, "that few of the richer sort live to be fifty, but die of a sort of atrophy. They eat too much, take little exercise, and, above all, have no nervous excitement." This condition tempts to indulgence in nerve-stimulants.
III. THE ANTIDOTE. We must have an antidote if we would remedy the evil. Mere negative abstinence without anything to support and encourage it is impossible on a large scale and in the worst cases. St. Paul, by a flash of inspiration reveals the cure. "Be filled with the Spirit." These are old words. Yet they read strangely in the present connection—so little have they been heeded by zealous but unimaginative and unspiritual social reformers. We are to pray for the Spirit of God which Christ assures us will be given to all who ask for it (Luke 11:13). How is this to counteract drunkenness?
1. It counteracts the craving for nervous stimulation. It is itself a pure and vitalizing spiritual stimulus, infusing at once restfulness and energy.
2. It supplies interest and occupation. For the Spirit of God is the inspiration of thought and power.
3. It purifies and elevates social intercourse. They who are filled with the Spirit will find that "singing and making melody in their hearts" is a more congenial accompaniment of social intercourse than drinking strong drinks.—W.F.A.
We have here, not only an interesting picture of worship as it was conducted in the early Church, but also apostolic directions for Christian worship that may be applied to all times. Consider some of the chief features of this worship.
I. IT IS PURE. The context shows that this point was of especial interest under the circumstances that obtained when the Epistle was written. The pure and simple observances of the Christian assembly at Ephesus must have stood in striking contrast to the riotous orgies that characterized the heathen festivities. In those pagan ceremonies intoxication and licentiousness were recognized accompaniments. Instead of indulging in drunkenness, the Christians seek to be filled with the Spirit; abandoning immoral practices, they occupy themselves in social worship by singing and making melody in their hearts. Pagans separated morality from religion. To Christians neither is possible without the other. Christian worship must be offered up in the beauty of holiness. Christian conduct is purified and elevated by the inspiration of worship.
II. IT IS SPIRITUAL. We are to make melody with our "heart." The heart stands, not for the feelings only nor chiefly, but generally for the inner life. Worship must begin here, or the richest music and the sweetest song will be an empty mockery. Whatever be our forms of worship, we have constantly to remember that the spiritual God can only be really worshipped in spirit, in inward thoughts and feelings of devotion.
III. IT IS EMOTIONAL. Religion is not all feeling. It is based on convictions, and it develops into actions. But religion does not dispense with emotions. It touches our whole nature—the emotional part with the rest. It makes great use of feelings as springs of active and sympathetic influences. We ought to cherish feelings of love and adoration. In worship this element of religion finds its natural scope and exercise.
IV. IT IS JOYOUS. Instead of gloomy rites and bloody sacrifices Christians have music and song in their worship. They are living under a gospel and should echo back the glad tidings of God's love. They are coming to a Father and should approach him with happy home-confidence. They are following Christ, who gives his joy to his people (John 15:11).
V. IT IS VOCAL. It begins in the heart, but it does not remain hidden there. Deep feeling naturally wells out in strong utterance. Religious emotion is encouraged and assisted by adequate expression. Of all parts of religion thanksgiving should be least reserved.
VI. IT IS MUSICAL. "Making melody." We cannot make the service of praise too beautiful, because we should offer to God what is best in form as well as in substance, and because the music of song assists the feeling that it expresses. Slovenly singing is a mark of indifference and irreverence.
VII. IT IS CONGREGATIONAL. "Speaking one to another." This is probably an allusion to antiphonal congregational singing. But whatever be the method adopted, and though a choir may take its part in the service, it is plainly the intention of St. Paul that all the people should sing, and that thus one should exhort and encourage another. We cannot praise God by proxy.
VIII. IT IS ADDRESSED TO GOD IN CHRIST. "To the Lord." Pliny writes how the Christians in his time met in the early morning to sing hymns to one Christ. We are not to sing simply for our own delectation or spiritual culture, or merely to attract and interest others, but mainly as addressing God and Christ in praise and communion.—W.F.A.
There are three points in this exhortation to thanksgiving that arrest our attention, viz. the time, the objects, and the method.
I. THE TIME FOR THANKSGIVING. There is a time for everything. When, therefore, is thanksgiving seasonable? Always. As we should pray without ceasing by living in constant communication with God, so a spirit of gratitude should pervade our whole life and express itself by the brightness and color that it gives to every action (Psalms 34:1). If the context limits the application of St. Paul's words to public worship (Ephesians 5:17), the breadth of their incidence is still very significant. Every Christian assembly should be joyous with praise, in every prayer supplication should be mingled with thanksgiving (Philippians 4:6). There are times when this is difficult, e.g. in trouble and in moods of spiritual depression. But the difficulty would be diminished if we thought less of our own feelings and more of the gifts and deeds of God's goodness. Modern religion is too subjective, and therefore it fluctuates with our varying phases of experience. Thanksgiving should call us out of ourselves to contemplate and praise God. Under the darkest cloud a thankful heart will ace innumerable causes of gratitude. But let our thanksgiving be honest. If we do not feel grateful, do not let us try to force the expression of gratitude.
II. THE OBJECTS OF THANKSGIVING. "All things."
1. Personal blessings. While we thank God for common gifts to all mankind, our gratitude would be warmer and more genuine if we reflected on the special proofs of his goodness in our own lives.
2. Fresh blessings. If thanksgiving is to be perpetual it must constantly find new food for gratitude. This, of all parts of worship, should not be a mere repetition of old, worn thoughts. Our ideas on this point are too narrowed by conventionality. If we are careful to say grace before meat, why should we not be equally ready to thank God for a good book, a cheerful visit, or a refreshing walk?
3. Things that we cannot see to be blessings. Gratitude for troubles is difficult to realize. It is only possible through faith. But if we believe that God is blessing us in them we should thank him as one would thank a surgeon for even amputating a limb to save his patient's life.
III. THE METHOD OF THANKSGIVING,
1. It should be offered to God our Father. It is a direct speaking to God. As he is the Father of mercies, his fatherhood should be the attribute that is most in our thoughts when we praise him. We are not rendering adulation to a distant monarch who claims it as the condition of sparing our lives; we are expressing our love and genuine devotion to our Father. There should, therefore, be no cringing abjectness in our worship. It should be cheerful and confident.
2. The thanksgiving is to be given in the Name of Christ; i.e.
(1) in recognition that God's blessings come to us through Christ; and
(2) as receiving and appreciating them in the spirit of Christ.—W.F.A.
Husbands and wives.
I. CHRISTIANITY CONSECRATES AND ELEVATES THE UNION OF HUSBAND AND WIFE.
1. Christianity sanctions marriage. St. Paul, though an unmarried man, casts no slight on marriage. It is true that he discourages it under temporary trying circumstances (1 Corinthians 7:1), but it is also true that he plainly teaches, not only the lawfulness, but especially the dignity of Christian marriage in itself. The ascetic view of celibacy as a more holy state than marriage is not found in the New Testament. "Let marriage be had in honor among all" (Hebrews 13:4).
2. Christianity elevates marriage. St. Paul compares it with the union of Christ with his Church. He does not take the marriage relation to illustrate that union—an illustration that was familiar with the prophets in explaining the relation of God to Israel. He makes the comparison in the opposite way, taking the union of Christ and the Church as the true and perfect union, and therefore as the type of what marriage should be, viz.
(1) close union and
(2) spiritual union.
Further, it is to be observed that Christianity elevates marriage
(1) by giving women a religious equality with men—men and women have equal privileges in the gospel; and
(2) by inculcating purity, justice, gentleness, and unselfishness.
II. THE HIGH CHRISTIAN IDEA OF MARRIAGE LAYS GREAT RESPONSIBILITIES ON HUSBANDS AND WIVES. Care and effort are necessary to realize so magnificent an ideal as a human copy of the mystical union of Christ and the Church. Care should be given in particular to the following requisites:—
1. Mutual sympathy. It is not right that husbands and wives, in dividing the home life into separate departments, should fail to take interest in one another's cares and works. The husband should show sympathy for the wife's domestic hopes, and fears, and joys, and troubles, and the wife for the husband's schemes and achievements and disappointments.
2. Mutual confidence. This is essential to mutual sympathy. There should be no secret between husband and wife. Surely it is a mistake for a husband to hide his trouble from his wife out of a desire to spare her pain, and equally so for the wife to do the same in regard to her husband. The separation thus caused is a more serious evil than the pain that is prevented.
3. Mutual forbearance. Each must be prepared to meet with faults in the other. But each would be less provoked by those faults if the husband would think rather of what his wife has to endure in him than of what he may be annoyed at in her, and if the wife would reflect in the same way on her own failings.
4. The consecration of marriage through union with Christ. Such a truly Christian marriage is safe from shipwreck. It is sad to see how rarely the Christian idea of marriage is realized; but little better can be expected till men and women are aiming throughout at a higher life than what is now prevalent in society—a life of spiritual union with Christ.—W.F.A.
Christ's treatment of his Church.
St. Paul describes Christ's treatment of his Church as an illustration of the way in which husbands should behave to their wives. But that vision of the spiritual world which is the ideal of earthly marriage is so attractive that it arrests the apostle's attention on its own account. It may well do the same with us.
I. WHAT CHRIST HAS DONE FOR THE CHURCH. We are first directed to Christ's work for the Church in the past. He loved it and gave himself up for it.
1. Christ loved the Church. He loved the whole world, but he had a peculiar love for those who trusted and obeyed him—a love like that which is between him and God, a love of sympathy and confidence which could not be given to the world that did not trust and obey him and was loved only with the love of mercy.
2. Christ loved the Church before the Church was worthy of his love. His love begins the process of the purification of the Church. He does not love because his people are holy, but he makes them holy because he loves them.
3. Christ's love to his Church led him to give himself up for it. His love was not an idle sentiment. It inspired his sacrifice of himself. That sacrifice, then, is the great proof of his love. By all that he suffers he confirms his love to the Church. The language of St. Paul may seem to imply that Christ did not die for the whole world, but only for the Church. On the other hand, however, it is to be observed that St. Paul taught that Christ would ultimately gather the whole world into his Church (Ephesians 1:10).
II. WHAT CHRIST IS DOING TO THE CHURCH.
1. He is purifying it. The spiritual baptism of the Word, i.e. the teaching of Christian truth, is the method. But Christ is in the truth, and he is actively purging the souls of his people. Therefore note
(1) we have not to wait to be pure before seeking Christ and becoming members of his Church, but are rather to come in our sin, repenting and desiring amendment through his grace, in order that, after we have come to him, he may purify us; and
(2) we shall be purified if we enter the Church of Christ, for Christ will not suffer us to remain in the imperfect condition in which he at first admits us. The Christian life throughout is a process of sanctification.
2. Christ is nourishing and cherishing his Church (Ephesians 5:29). He feeds his people with the bread that is his body. He watches over them and deals gently and kindly with them, and by his grace strengthens and advances their spiritual life. Thus Christ has not accomplished a finished work and sacrifice. He is now carrying on the double process of cleansing and nourishing the Church.
III. WHAT CHRIST WILL DO WITH THE CHURCH.
1. He will make it glorious. Christians are not to receive bare deliverance, but joy and glory. The Church is not only to have blessings bestowed upon her; she is to be raised herself in holiness and glory. She is to be
(1) "without spot," every stain of sin vanishing; and
(2) "without wrinkle," all marks of age, weariness, and trouble passing away.
2. Christ will present the Church to himself. He is preparing his bride for the great marriage of the Lamb. The end of all is that, being first redeemed by Christ and then purified and strengthened, Christians may be ultimately; united to him in eternal blessedness.—W.F.A.
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Exell, Joseph S; Spence-Jones, Henry Donald Maurice. "Commentary on Ephesians 5". The Pulpit Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week after Epiphany